Evolutionary pressures

I spent a day in airports yesterday, which can throw up questions. Here is today’s…

In a recent post I mentioned the sad demise of the Dodo.

And it is a cautionary tale indeed in regards to what can happen when certain evolutionary pressures cease to be – and then sudden change occurs. The ancestors of Dodos were birds that probably got swept onto the island of Mauritius. Over the years, due to a lack of predators and abundant food supplies, they lost the ability of flight and also all fear of being hunted. This proved to be their downfall: when Dutch and Portuguese sailors arrived end of the 16th century, they were met by birds that were quasi tame, without any fear of these strangers. Within sixty years, the pressure of hunting by the sailors, their domesticated animals and invasive species caused the extinction of the Dodo with a last official sighting in 1662.

So what does all of this have to do with airports?

Escalators and travelators, that’s what!

Technology is a fickle thing – it brings with it benefits, but also challenges. Take the instance of escalators and moving walkways, or travelators. Both these inventions were intended to help large volumes of people to bridge height or distance with greater ease, faster and more efficiently.

So why, oh why, is it that when people congregate into groups, the moment they step onto a moving walkway (say, in an airport) everything sags, all muscle tone leaves their body and they just slump motionlessly against the handrail until they reach the end of the travelator.

Two dodos on a travelator

Why this should be is a mystery to me.

Common sense would suggest that to reap the full benefit of these devices you would want to add you forward motion, e.g. by walking, to that of the escalators or travelators, by doing so increasing the speed at which you are moving and getting where you want to get to sooner. Rather than turning yourself into a inert human blob.

And here is my thought: heeding the tale of the Dodo, it is conceivable that the lack of the need for our muscles to provide forward locomotion could over time lead to our legs becoming gradually ever shorter and feebler, like an inverted T Rex, which would be fine – until the day someone switches off the escalators and travelators. Then we would be sunk.

Do me a favour, at least if you are in my company: continue WALKING on escalators and travelators if you do not want to really irritate me.

Grumpy and intolerant? Meeee? Never. Just trying to make a point.