Escalators

There is few a feeling like turning on an escalator at 6:30am after a 13 hour night and listening to the chorus of a stalled handrail buzzer. Daylight pokes through the atrium as I watch people coming in to work for the day. I stare at the unmoving handrail and contemplate what my life might have been had I applied myself in school and gone to university. The street people bumble and utter threats as they drag their life’s possessions up to the food court on the other escalator. A moment of sheer helplessness passes over me as I realize I am completely exhausted and there is nobody else to finish my job. I try all my voodoo tricks of running it backwards and forwards, coaxing the handrail by hand and  praying for a miracle. Yet still the pestering buzzer with its calculated tone penetrates the silence, causing a passerby to pause and give a lingering stare at the grease marks on my face. Still, the handrail taunts my patience and will not budge. The feeling turns to one of rage as I grab a screwdriver and start removing and throwing skirt panels like toothpicks. The adrenaline is soon gone and I’m losing my attempt to fight off the fatigue that has my eyes mechanically trying to close but electrically trying to open. When I discover the belt tension is maxed out from some other mechanics poor attempt at solving this problem I realize everything has to come apart now. No energy to curse, not even a sigh. Adjusting the first cluster roller assembly with cramping hands I drop my only speed wrench down the truss and listen to it slide a short distance, of course it wouldn’t make it to the bottom for easy retrieval. Out come the channel locks and that last bit of energy disappears as I try to fit this antiquated plumbing tool in the tight space between the skirt and the balustrade, it’s jaws slipping and gripping as I try to eek out a sixteenth of a turn. Amidst the struggle the manager wanders over to say “Well you’re here early, is everything ok?” and I tell him I haven’t left since I saw him at 4:00pm yesterday. “I don’t know how you do it” he says, and walks away, leaving the same thought hanging in my head as I fight the stripped screws on the skirting and the fatigue that is slowly taking over my upper half. When I finally turn it on, the handrail spins, and a small moment of satisfaction passes over me. The anxiety of the last hour slips away into a feeling of earned success. Not for long. The other mechanic points out a new noise that has developed from the gearbox area. “I can fix that too,” I say. I kick the landing plate hard with my foot and it slides into place, muffling the noise of the running machine and the new noise. Problem solved. And as the barricades come down, the morning bus has dumped it’s load of people to ride up the escalator as if nothing had happened, as if it’s innards had not been pulled apart and dissected by my calloused hands.  As if no blood had spilled on its skirting and no sweat on it’s truss. Home. Sleep. Wake up. One more night.

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