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Mary Trotter: Making a mountain out of a molehill

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- As a child, I remember people telling me that, during frontier times, men walked in front of their women to guard against Indians.

I also remember being told that, as communities developed and became more civil, men walked beside the lady, but on the outside edge of the walkway to keep the lady from being splashed by trotting horses, passing carriages, automobiles or from garbage thrown from a window.

I remember being taught the rule of walking two or more abreast. People going in opposite directions, both groups would move into single file to give way to those passing and, when passing in hallways, we were to walk the right elbows close to the wall and left elbows close to the person going in the opposite direction.

Because 70 percent of the population was right handed, all doors opened and closed using the right hand.

In 1965, when Bel Kaufman wrote the novel "Up The Down Staircase," foot traffic changed, probably forever.

We know the plot of the story. "A young English teacher who fought with the administrating assistant and some of the teachers, and the rebellious students who refused to be educated or follow directions. Yet she wanted to make her mark in education and was determined to build an exemplary school. There's an up and down staircase in the novel, which the students repeatedly refused to use as directed. The directional rule became the straw that broke the camel's back and hence became the title of her novel."

From the title of her novel, not its contents, many schools with two or more floors adopted the traffic-flow idea. All going up one set of stairs and coming down another, which, for the past 47 years, has eliminated all previous foot-traffic rules.

Just for fun, go to a building (especially a school) with at least a second story and watch the traffic flow.

Go to a mall and watch people as they try to negotiate from store to store or get on and off the escalator.

Go to the grocery store and watch as people dance around each other trying to pass. Shall I pass on the left, the right or stand still and let the other person make the decision? I bet, before it's all over, you both smile while at the quandary.

Remember earlier I stated the majority of the population is right handed, therefore doors were hung to accommodate the majority. Check out how we now enter on the left and exit on the right of large commercial buildings.

Is this change of direction just a problem for those of us who remember the way it was or have we made a mountain out of a molehill?

Mary Trotter of Scott Depot may be emailed at MWT110236@aol.com.


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