78 Comments
Comment deleted
Expand full comment
Comment deleted
Expand full comment

I avoid both. Rather use my legs.

Expand full comment
author

Like "Children of the Porn" good writing begins with discovering something everyone has suffered, but no one has talked about....

Expand full comment

(We gotta get a new title)

Expand full comment
author

Everyone! Tricia is the writer who coined the title 'Children of the Porn.' Someone brave like Grady Hendrix would use that title. Hope is not lost.

Expand full comment
founding

I was so shook when I heard you talk about this on some podcast! I found burned up porn and an old computer monitor behind a Safeway as a kid. I gotta write that story.

Expand full comment

I'd love to know more about this...where do I find it?

Expand full comment
founding

I think it's this interview but I'm not 100% sure: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0gPwXrb6rYg

Expand full comment

As a tiny child, I ran up an escalator away from my grandmother, who fell forward and onto the cursed thing in pursuit. She gashed her leg pretty badly and had escalator dread for the rest of her life - it was stairs and elevators from then on for her.

Expand full comment

I link it with my more common Mall dread. My whittle brudder, getting anywhere near the second story walkway wall. The Escelator seemed like it's lessons were earned to me. Cruel, yes that, but fair. Every time he got close to that wall, increasingly on purpose to make me flip out, that was, still is even in the memory worse, Big D Dread.

Expand full comment

I wasn't scared of escalators as a kid I thought they were cool. I was afraid of heights at some point in my childhood. I remember being 14 on the Tooth of Time Ridge in Philmont New Mexico. I climbed up on all these tethering rock slabs to get to the top. I couldn't even stand for the group photo. There were crazy kids up there sitting with their legs dangling off a sheer cliff with a 2000 foot drop. Call me crazy but that was slightly more terrifying to me than slow moving stairs for lazy people.

Expand full comment

When I was a kid my shoelace got caught in an escalator at the mall. It ended up pulling me in and my dad had to grab me before anything happened, my shoe ended up getting stuck! To this day I look down take a big step whenever I get on an escalator!

Expand full comment

Great. Now it's validated and I'm going to rehash my nightmares from 40 years ago.

Expand full comment

Getting my shoelace caught was always a fear of mine. I think a lot of us take that big step in some way.

Expand full comment

Shoelaces must be the top cause of these accidents! Yikes I never really thought about this danger.

Expand full comment

Escalators still often scare me. It’s worse when I’m on one alone. I can’t push the thought of it stalling and me tumbling down out of my head.

Expand full comment

My mom told me that a little girl got sucked into an escalator who ate her leg. She said never let your clothes near it’s teeth. For childhood I had to make a huge leap at the bottom every time. Until one day I’m a head taller at the mall with my friend riding the escalator down and he just lets it take him all the way and his sneaker slide flush on the platform. After that I never leapt again.

Expand full comment

Mine was the freight elevator in my grandfather’s appliance store in Dodge City. It was one of those old, pull-down, wooden-gated elevators with open sides in an old original Front Street building. It vibrated and made growling sounds and smelled like mildew and grease. Scared the bejesus out of me but it was wonderful.

Expand full comment
founding

Honestly, I STILL have a micro moment of dread. I quickly take inventory of any hanging articles of clothing—I gather my children (mother of four) and check them for dangling bits, then I kind of jump to my death, or worse, theirs.

Every. Damn. Time.

Expand full comment

I think there's something to being much lower to the ground and small and being able to see it closer up. I had nightmares for YEARS of being mangled. The adult equivalent for me...

Fast food restaurants with two drive-thru lanes. I can't tell you the anguish I experience wondering if someone's going to jump in front of me and leave me stuck for hours waiting for my food. Totally irrational. But my wife can attest to the stress it causes me.

Expand full comment

I was indeed terrified and like others here, I was told the stories about some mom losing their child because of clothing (or a shoelace) getting caught in the escalator. But I didn't realize until just now that others had the same experience.

How do you recognize those little moments?

Expand full comment

I remember a glow behind the ridges in the metal stairs. It was terrifying as a child.

Expand full comment

I can’t remember any escalator fear. Maybe I was overly trusting of machinery. For me one of the most terrifying experiences of childhood was being left alone at summer camp for the first time. The first time your parents say goodbye and walk away and you won’t be seeing them for weeks and you are staying with complete strangers in the middle of nowhere. And, if you’re unlucky like I was, it’s a cult-ish evangelical Christian camp in the South — making things that much weirder. It’s overwhelming as a kid. When I became a camp counselor years later it was strange seeing kids going through the exact same thing as me, but still not having much to offer them beyond letting them know that they’d be able to quickly move past their anxiety. Kids don’t believe you when you promise over and over that they’re going to have fun, until all the sudden they do.

Expand full comment

For me, it was Terminator (metal machine that transports). My mom and step dad thought it was a good idea to let a 9 year watch that movie. The glowing red eye coupled with those very unnatural movements in the end part of the movie...still gives me shivers today.

Expand full comment

I don’t recall being terrified. But my two young daughters certainly were

Expand full comment

I don't remember really fearing escalators as a child but I used to get on them with a running jump and briskly walk up a couple steps. Then I felt safe. It wasn't until later when I watched a video of a mother saving her child from an escalator but getting pulled underneath and crushed. That's when I started to worry about what they can do.

Expand full comment

Oh I'm absolutely still terrified. Had to go to London a few years back and they had some enormous ones on the tube. Really had to face my fears there! I think it's less the machinery and more the heights for me, though. Stairs I at least have some control. Escalators remove it. I'm fine with the walking platform escalator things in airports, but they're a straight shot.

Expand full comment

Malls were all the rage growing up, the center of space and time. We always entered at the same entrance, except once.

It was the week before Christmas, in an overflowing parking lot a Brand-New White Cadillac was taking up 4 parking spaces

dead center, like Christ on the cross. Enraged, put 3 separated keys through his fingers, keying it from rear fender to headlight.

Leaning into it enough the paint ribboned and the metal screamed, complete with a bold follow through at the end.

His arm rising into the air like he landed an uppercut, silver and brass exaggerating the moment.

He was mad.

Everything was at the mall and we went several times a week. Movie Theater, Haircuts, clothes, toys, books, arcades.

We approached the same escalator every time, my Dad picking me up, excitedly explaining how fun the ‘magic carpet’ was to ride, and if was FREE!

Boldly stepping onto the step, then ‘freezing’,

slowly rising into the air, my Dad smiling at me as a whole world exposed itself beyond his silhouette.

He would do a little bounce at the top making my stomach jump… laugh and put me down. Walking away, always looking back in admiration and anticipation for ‘next time’

Pulling on his shirt every time we passed one, he’d smile.

Looking over both shoulders, like he was going to tell me a secret.

‘When you get stronger, May-Be I’ll let you ride it by yourself’…

Then I’d look over my shoulders, cause that’s what he did, convincingly saying, ‘I’m strong enough, now’…

Raising how eyebrows and tilting his head..

I knew what that meant.

More push-ups.

Already doing my push-ups everyday, training even harder now, asking if that was enough push ups, to ride the ‘magic carpet’…

It didn’t take long, before I go the ‘nod’, swelling up my back and chest to baby cock proportions, boldly stepping onto the magic carpet.

Placing my sticky-filthy hand on the rail, and up we went.

My Dad was pointing out that people couldn’t believe how strong I was riding this by myself.

Pulling away from him for the first time, I didn’t need him anymore.

This is what a movie star feels like, they can’t believe it’s me.

Expand full comment
author

I love 'The paint ribboned' nice, very nice.

Expand full comment
founding

On my first escalator ride I wasn't scared, but I do remember going up a Nordstrom escalator and hearing that Nordstrom loud speaker. The one where they always say a name and then some two digit code. Like, "Jenny, 41." Or, "Harriet, 82." And I remember being small and not understanding why it was lined with bristle brushes. I think my mom told me not to touch the brushes. But yea, "Margret, 99" is all that comes forward.

Expand full comment

I was positive those big metal teeth-like stairs were going to eat me.

The only safety I felt was my grandmothers hand on mine.

That fear escalated along with the moving stairs, until she scooped me up at the end.

Expand full comment
founding

I feel the same way about the garbage disposal in the sink

Expand full comment

When I was at university, there was a story about a man who got mauled by an escalator. He was going shopping at this mall and probably thought ‘wouldn’t it be lovely to get a new snow hat’. Then he stepped onto the escalator to go to the second floor where they sold winter gear, alone like it was meant to be, and in the middle of the ride those metal plates (it was a flat escalator) just folded underneath him like a trap door. Turns out that inside of every escalator is a gruesome torture device! A grinder. His legs basically got put through one of those pasta thinning machines.

It’s been a long time, but every time I get on an escalator, I imagine myself dying on one.

But when I was a child I absolutely adored it. One of my favorite things to do was ‘fighting the escalator’ which is just getting up on the one that travels you down.

Expand full comment

I love how specific ("lovely new snow hat") that story was. It's all in the details!

Expand full comment

never been afraid of escalators. spiders. about those I would have many anecdotes

Expand full comment

You know I still have that moment of anxiety before stepping on escalators - it's awful. And like some urban legend, I too heard the story of the child being pull into the escalator and it most definitely scared me. Probably it is based on some actual event, but probably I'd rather not know 😖. We went to London for a week when I was 8 or 9 and I couldn't even get on the ones in the tube stations, they're massive, and tight packed with so many people. I had some sort of paralysing anxiety and my dad had to carry me up them every single time - which was a lot to be fair as it was our main means of getting around.

Remember those old public service announcement TV advertisements? They used to terrify me too - you know, the ones warning of the dangers of electricity, fireworks, drowning or strangers. They never ended well and played on my mind a lot 😫.

Expand full comment

Yeah, the first one, I got worried that my trainers would get trapped, and my foot would get torn appart. So, I remember taking a well timed leap at the end to escape it.

I have a personel ''escalator dread''. Whenever I'm in the kitchen, I always dread the cabinet doors beneath the counter. I get my precious olive oil first now, then close them, lock them, never give them a chance to... well, one time I was frantically prepping many things at once ( as I always do), I open the cabinet, grab olive oil, put it back, and then close the cabinet doors hard and quickly. I've never felt such pain and fear in my life, my dick got sucked in. They terrify me.

When Tyler Durden says '' It could be worse. A woman could cut off your penis while you're sleeping and toss it out the window of a moving car.'' I relate to that Lol.

Expand full comment

Can’t remember the first escalator but started this morning with the first eleven pages of Updike’s “Trust Me”, the titular short story. Learning to swim/ski, flying and an unfamiliar drug experience all covered in a short span along with familial and romantic relations. Worth the quarter I paid for the paperback (first Ballantine 1988) at the thrift store. Even if they’re subjects that have been covered to death, it seems connecting them and their details (as well as decorating with embellishments and emotions) creates a work covering new ground.

Expand full comment

My pants were too long and got caught on the escalator on my first ride, but my neighbor/stand in Mom ripped me off of there in a hurry. Dont recall being frightened, but that was ~35 years ago.

Expand full comment

Did Bukowski come up?

https://vimeo.com/164775233

I have to agree with him

Expand full comment

How peculiar that I don't recall mine. That said, there are plenty of other terrifying "firsts" that take up headspace that perhaps that's why.

Expand full comment

I stepped onto the top step with my right foot. Forgot to step on immediately after with my left. The escalator was in no mood for waiting, and proceeded to tear me in two, as I did the splits for comedy effect. Genuinely thought my time had come.

Then Dad pick me up. Saved my life. Laughed at me and called me a dope. All good.

Expand full comment

I was 15 years old.

Expand full comment
author

A very young fifteen.

Expand full comment

I don't, but my dog is still terrified. Otherwise he's a fearless creature.

Expand full comment
founding

I tripped and fell on one when I was a toddler. Thankfully, my mother picked me up, but I was terrified of escalators after that. I'd purposefully take the stairs alongside my mom on the escalator if the option was available for years after that.

I felt vindicated maybe a decade later when I saw a show on TV where a guy got his pant leg caught in the escalator. The pant leg kept getting pulled tighter and tighter like this dude was meat in a vacuum sealer bag you see on late night infomercials. I remember telling Mom, "See! THAT's why I don't want to go on the escalator."

All that practice of taking the stairs served me well. In college, my first dorm was on the 10th floor and the elevators were almost always full or out of order. My cardio game was pro by that point.

Expand full comment

The initial dread, followed by curiosity. Then the childhood bravado that sends you up the down escalator never suspecting that one misstep might deliver you to the metal teeth.

Expand full comment

I loved escalators as a kid. It was one of my favourite parts of going to the mall. At first it was hold onto the black rubber hand rest and spider man walk along the side of the wall up the stairs. Then as I got a little older it was hold on with one hand as you get pulled to the top looking like superman lying on the rubber hand rail. In my teens, I would sit on the rubber part, hold onto the both hands on either side of me as hard as I could, and sit upright as straight as possible as it pulled me up to the top.

Now that I'm afraid to go to a mall, I miss the escalators the most.

Expand full comment
founding

If you don't mind my asking, why are you afraid to go to the mall?

Expand full comment

Zombies

Expand full comment
founding

I used to work at the Monroeville Mall where they filmed “Dawn of the Dead!” Loved seeing everyone come for the reunions every year!

Expand full comment
author

Did you have no parents?! Were you some fetal mall child dumped at Forever 21 and left to fend for yourself?

In my childhood there was a very popular kids book about a brother and sister who lived secretly in a New York City museum. Very high culture. It would be better to depict two runaway kids making a furtive life living full-time in a mall.

Expand full comment

Instead of paying for a babysitter while she getting her degrees, My mother would give me and my brother $10. each to go see movies at the mall Cineplex. We would pay to see a kids movie and then I would sneak into Restricted movies, my brother dropped following me because he he never got over the time we snuck into Alien.. If the ushers caught me, they'd always send me back to the movie I payed to see. That's how I saw Never Cry wolf 37 times in the theater.

Expand full comment

Ah! "From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler."

Expand full comment
founding

Sounds like a scene that was in, “The Royal Tennenbaums.” Margot & Richie. Major fan of Wes Anderson. “The Grand Budapest Hotel” has become a favorite over the years. “Bottle Rocket” though is some of my favorite writing. Fincher and Wes Anderson know how to make stories flow. Netflix’s “The Harder They Fall” is OUTSTANDING! The cinematographer… (chef’s kiss)

Expand full comment

Hell yeah, still won't use them .......the metal teeth gonna get me

Expand full comment

I use to live in a post-Soviet country. The Metro in the capital city was quite deep in the ground, and the escalator was both fast and steep. Sometimes it would break down when you were half-way up or down. If you decided to walk the rest, it could be a trek and you were never sure if it would fire back up when you were in mid-stride (which could knock you over). The other option was to just stand and wait.

Expand full comment
founding

Brings to mind an incident at a large university here in the Midwest. A dorm elevator stopped between floors but the students got the doors open revealing a foot or two space where they could see the floor above. They lifted a student up to crawl through the gap not knowing the elevator had stopped because it was over the weight limit. As he squeezed through the gap and shifted his weight onto the above floor the elevator resumed service and crushed him to death. I could never get the image out of my mind of the top and bottom of a person separated in such a way.

Expand full comment
author

Ouch, my apologies. 'Zach' ought to be spelled Zack. No offense intended.

Expand full comment
author

A douche memory. A reckless acquaintance of mine told me the trick of switching dye bottles between the boxes of hair color. At the time the bottles weren't clearly marked, and buyers would get the wrong color of hair. I wrote the hair dye stunt into 'Choke.'

This same douchey guy -- it's okay, he's dead -- would stand at the bottom or top of a crowded escalator. There's always a large red emergency stop button below where the rubber handrail feeds into or out of the device. If you kick it the escalator stops, often so fast that everyone falls forward in a pile -- especially if traveling downward. He got a huge laugh by kicking that button, causing a pile-up and running.

Expand full comment
founding

Uncanny. I just posted to this thread an experience from my yooth—innocently hitting the escalator kill switch. At five I guess I was a douche-in-the-chrysalis!

Expand full comment

Thanks for bringing back a buried memory. It's the escalator teeth that are so scary. Can't they redesign that? Remember the first time you watched Wizard of Oz as a kid - those flying monkeys. I had to watch through my spread fingers over my eyes - the first four times I watched it!

Expand full comment

When I saw my first escalator my older brother had got his shoe lace caught, and there was also a story of a kid getting his unprotected flip-flop toe pinched off circulating. I was absolutely mortified and sobbed at the top while my Mom went down without me. I still jump the gap while boarding one.

Expand full comment
founding

Thank you for relaying this topic from the workshop. I was around five when I found a power-panel situated ankle-high under the handrail entry of a department store up-escalator. Touching the green plastic button seemed like the first logical thing to do, then pushing it was the next. It receded into the black ring. Nothing. I pressed the red button and a metallic thud-ka-chunk sent vibrations everywhere, followed by the sound of people on the escalator shouting fucking-shits and oh-my-gods. Since I was only a few feet tall at that age—and on the outside of the escalator where I couldn't see the stairs—I didn't make the connection that I'd hit the emergency kill switch until a moment later. For the first time I felt an incredible sense of control over my environment while waiting for my mother to emerge from the jungle of discount clothing racks to give me the beating of my life.

Expand full comment

Clowns, those pasty red-nosed demons, were the first thing in this world that scared me out of my diapers. Maybe it was because they looked so different than my mother - an angel - or their over-excited pincers going at my cheeks or maybe that they rarely spoke. King wrote it and the Joker is now turning into some hero for vigilantes but for me, clowns, backwood, hay-battered, OG clowns will always be the creatures that scare me the most. How do you reason with something so ecstatic, so overjoyed, so deranged?

Expand full comment

I was never actually afraid of escalators as a kid until I saw a safety advert for them. I think. It's the sort of thing I think I remember, but might not have existed. In it, there's a scene where a boot is sucker into the side and chewed up. Terrifying.

That, and an x-files episode where Eugene Tooms is ground up by one. Fun.

Expand full comment

I think what scared me the most was when I saw "Scream" at ten. I think. And the funny thing is, I didn't have the words to verbalize it. But when the man in the ghost mask came back with a knife and I think the heroine shot him. So, after the movie's over, my sister walks into the kitchen and unassuming pulls out a knife on me. I think that was the first time I could feel such fear, but then later on, I laugh about it. So, media can do a lot of things. But I also love Lovecraft's work where he can make you see things in a linguistic form that you don't see. And that's why he's so hard to adapt to film. But then, maybe this had nothing to do with it, but I do have those moments burned into my brain. Like Blade Runner. I can see that even when I close my eyes. And Phil's book is amazing too. I think Rutget Hauer was a scary yet sympathetic character in Blade Runner. I can't hate him for who he is. I think we can all relate to an adroit who is dying because he's faced with this existential dread. Robots are supposed to live forever, right? Nope.

Anyways, yes, I think being scared shitless and loving it is what writers live for. Berserk did that for me too. Manga is ten times better than comics. Except if it's yours, of course. Didn't mean to diss or offend you. Don't send Tyler after me. Cause I know the rules of Fight Club. 😂

Expand full comment

Escalator still worry me (decades after my first trip).

Expand full comment

It was the escalator that freaked the fuck out of me as a child. I’d stand there as the stairs rose to step upon with another soon to rise thereafter. I would stand there for minutes just staring at them, scared to death to lift my foot and leave the safety of solid ground. Images of corners of clothing-wear getting caught in the many turning and rolling components that made this mysterious staricase run haunted me, even after leaving the mall and coming home…as I was falling asleep, I would still lie in horror at the thought of what would happen had I gotten stuck in the roll of the staircase. Strangling? Being turned into a pancake? Being stripped naked in front of everyone in the mall? I hadn’t a clue. Just knew it horrified me.

Expand full comment