Perhaps this illogical fear was all assumptive on Allister's part, that no one's mind jumped to such ridiculous phobia. But, this can certainly be said: After fifteen minutes of gawking, not a single person set foot on a traveling step. No matter how courageous one had been in some other form of life, this was too much. The crowd simultaneously turned their back on the escalator. All that is, but one. A young girl, perhaps four, had slipped from the maternal grip of her mother's gloved hand and strolled to the moving beast who whirred with the mechanical growls of rotators and pinions. These did not scare her. She offered her right hand to the escalator, as if it were a scared stray mutt who growled in defense but whose eyes betrayed its innocence, its need for a rub behind the ears, as if the escalator had eyes.
And the escalator did not snap. Allister was the first to notice, turning back just in time. The escalator did not snap. The little girl set her little pointer finger to a step emerging from some deep mysterious abyss that lived in the floor. She let the gentle beast guide her hand up until it was pulled just enough to be too far and she giggled. She pulled her hand back and giggled-and simply placed one foot and then another on a new step being birthed. And she rode. She rode the steps of the beast. And this Allister can attest to-she giggled.
These giggles were the alarm that caught the mother's attention to the lack of child in her maternal glove. Those giggles are what swiveled the mother's body back to the beast. And those giggles are what brought the fear soaring into the mother's eyes, what sent her entire body lurching towards the beast, what brought forth the shriek that some say was heard miles and miles away at another Harrod's Department Store location.
And suddenly, the mother was back at the edge of where the steps entered the world, screaming the name of her daughter, whose name had slipped Allister's memory when he retold this story to me (I will simply refer to her as the girl, but for a more personal and immediate effect, you may feel free to replace 'the girl' with the name of your own daughter.). The girl still giggled, as she seemed to be ascending into the heavens. The mother paced furiously, franticly, cursing both Mr. Harrod and Mr. Moving Stair-for, at the time, she knew not the name 'Escalator' nor the name of it's horrid inventor. Allister, to the best of his ability, tried to calm her, insisting that it would all right, that this was after all still Harrod's, that Mr. Harrod would not install a machine in his store that would eat young children. But, the woman was hysterical. She shouted, "What is up there? What is up there?" Though, being a regular at Harrod's, she knew very well that on the second floor was houseware. And still, the young girl floated. Still, the young girl giggled.
A crowd gathered, as crowds do, watching the woman scream, pointing at the young girl rising, and grabbing their hearts with their hands. Someone shouted, "My God!" Then, someone followed with, "Get Mr. Harrod!" And no one did. And, as Allister tried to calm the woman, the little girl suddenly caught wind of the tension. She glanced down behind her and saw her mother scream as though she or someone she knew was being murdered. The girl's giggles immediately turned to tears, an act that could easily be described as both an act of progressive and regressive maturity. Someone shouted louder, "Get Mr. Harrod!" And no one did. The girl tried to get down to her mother but could not. The steps kept climbing. The girl screamed. The mother screamed. And the mother broke free from Allister's assistance and leapt to a newly birthed step. Someone shouted still louder, "Get Mr. Harrod!" And, still, no one did.
The mother screamed from her moving step up to her daughter, who tried to climb down to her mother. And the escalator held true to its duty, a steady motion up. The moving steps between them seemed too much and they both sat on a step and sobbed. The crowd gasped, and then, they too, sat and sobbed. Allister stood, in awe and confusion at what was happening. Though he, too, eventually had to take a seat. And from their seats on the immovable ground, they watched as the girl's step dropped her off at the top ever so simply, ever so lightly.
In the midst of hysterical tears, she was unaware that she had reached the top until her mother, also hysterically unaware, was lightly pushed against her daughter at the second floor. There were cheers from the gathered crowd. Cheers and sniffles. And the wiping of eyes. The mother embraced the daughter and would not let go. She held on for dear life until the joy turned to the inevitable spanking-though it could be said that the girl had not disobeyed at all, that she had merely been curious. Allister watched from below and hoped to himself that the mother would come to her senses, perhaps reward the courageous explorer with a vase or a spatula from houseware, before the two rode the steps down.
And, as the crowd's eyes dried and they dispersed, Allister looked to the escalator and felt sorry for the beast. He could here its pinions, its rotators, whimpering sadly for it knew not what wrong it had done. And Allister, admittedly, knew not what wrong it had done either. So, he simply placed foot to moving step and rode up, knowing that it would take time for the beast to gain back its confidence. But, the process had to start somewhere.