Yesterday I rode up and down the escalators with my mother and two of my therapist. Let me tell you, it was quite an experience.
The actual riding up and down was quite boring to tell you the truth. You just find a sweet spot so that all four wheels are balanced on a step and then you hold on to the moving sides. You are always looking uphill (so that you don't fall out of the chair) no matter if you are going up or down the escalator. I'd done this once before with my therapists but this was my first time with my mom. It was really easy and the skill that I was supposedly "learning" was mastered in one or two tries.
The interesting part of the whole experience was seeing everyone's reaction! Now granted they have some reason. Honestly, how often do you see someone in a wheelchair riding up and down an escalator? We did this in John's Hopkins at about 2:00 in the afternoon. So not horribly busy but there was a steady trickle of people.
Some looked on with mild interest. I probably would have too! Here I was, a 20 year old in a wheelchair being surrounded by two people on either side. I'm guessing they were simply puzzled as to why someone would try such a feat.
Others looked scandalized. Clearly they thought that surely someone would have banned wheelchairs from clogging up the escalators (though we only went up when there was a large gap in people).
The best group of people were the people who thought they were being helpful. Clearly it occurred to people that we simply couldn't find the elevator and figured the escalator was our only option (not quite as silly as it sounds. Hopkins can be very maze-like). What amazed me though were the shear number of people who thought we were in such a predicament. They asked us "Did you know that you can use the elevator, right over there?" We tried not to laugh, and my therapists calmly answered "No, were actually practicing wheelchair skills." By about the fourth or fifth time it was pretty hillarious. I predicted as we were about to go down again that we would be asked if we knew that they elevators were close by; and sure enough, almost as soon as we got on, we were asked this question again. In total, eight separate people asked us. We must have looked desperate or lost or something.
This is not really a very useful skill most of the time. It will come in handy every once in a while, say if the elevator is broken and we have to use the escalator. Other than that, this skill is more along the line of party trick. But it's cool to know that I can do it.
One other thing I learned by sheer coincidence: one of the fastest way to find the elevator is to ride the escalator. People will then have a driving need to point out where it is.