Should I Stay or Should I Go?

2 Jul

I fly to JFK fairly often and I like to think I know the airport pretty well. I pretty much function on auto-pilot from the moment I pull up to the airport to the moment I board my plane and usually it seems like everyone else is doing the same, moving as quickly as their carry-ons and companions will allow. It’s like a constant stream of movement, from hall to hall, transportation vehicle to transportation vehicle, destination to destination.

So you can imagine my surprise the other day when I came upon an obstacle on my normal route. I was about to board an escalator when I noticed a woman in front of its first step. She just stood there, frozen still. As I approached she turned to me with a frazzled look, pointed to a sign next to the escalator, and asked me what we were supposed to do.

She had been on her merry way, just like the rest of us, until her literal interpretation of this sign made her pause in her tracks. She told me she had been debating whether or not her carry-on counted as “luggage.” If so, she couldn’t take it on the escalator. But if it didn’t count as “luggage,” the escalator was a safe bet. Nevermind that streams of travelers continued to push past her and onto the escalator with their bags. She was very concerned that the sign strictly forbid luggage, and her carry-on seemed to be a form of luggage.

I’ve actually noticed that sign before, and have always found it sort of funny. I’ve always assumed it didn’t apply to carry-on bags, since most travelers have them. Could you imagine if every single person with a carry-on tried to use the elevator? It just wouldn’t make sense. Then again, you have to check in your “real” bags before security. So why would anyone even have a piece of luggage like the one shown on the sign in their possession on their way to the gates?

Really, she was sort of right- the sign was a tad unclear. At least the strollers/baggage carts part were straightforward to interpret. But she didn’t have either of those things- just the carry on. I pointed out that everyone else was taking their bags on the escalator, so it was probably ok (I know, terrible reasoning for pretty much anything). And really, common sense seems to indicate that it just HAD to be ok to board with her carry-on. So on we went, on our merry separate ways, carry-ons in hand. But every time I pass that sign now I have to chuckle- and have to wonder what the sign is really supposed to mean.


2 Responses to “Should I Stay or Should I Go?”


  1. Introducing Word Jam | Culture Cookies - June 27, 2016

    […] it’s menus. I write about some of these pictures here on Culture Cookies – the baggage sign at JFK, the bathroom sign at a gas station, adventures in translation. But the bulk of those photos never […]


  2. Do Not Enter – Word Jam - December 26, 2017

    […] I’m still standing there, utterly confused about whether to stay or go. […]


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