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Stand Right, Walk Left: The Smooth Swing Of Subway Etiquette
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Stand Right, Walk Left: The Smooth Swing Of Subway Etiquette

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Stand Right, Walk Left: The Smooth Swing Of Subway Etiquette

Stand Right, Walk Left: The Smooth Swing Of Subway Etiquette
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Subway commuters in major cities live by unspoken codes of conduct. In Washington, D.C., a local rule of escalator etiquette inspired jazz musicians Aaron Myers and Oren Levine to write a song.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Subway riders everywhere, be warned - tourists are in town, and they probably don't know your local subway etiquette. Washington, D.C.'s, got one rule that is so dear to its commuters, it inspired a jazz duo to write a song about it. NPR's Yu Sun Chin has more.

YU SUN CHIN, BYLINE: In Washington, D.C., there's an unspoken escalator code that subway riders know by heart.

MAGGIE O'BRIEN: If you're going to stand, you've got to stand on the right and let people pass you on the left. Sometimes people, like, stand in the middle. That's terrible.

CHIN: And when unwitting Metro riders break this code...

VANESSA CUNNINGHAM-WEST: I've seen people, like, push people out of the way, so sometimes I think people take it a little too far (laughter).

CHIN: That's Metro riders Maggie O'Brien and Vanessa Cunningham-West. The rule inspired D.C. jazz pianist Oren Levine when he first moved to the city five years ago.

OREN LEVINE: Some stage, I know I heard about the D.C. rule about standing on the right and walking on the left. And stand right, walk left had a really nice rhythm to it.

CHIN: So he turned to the D.C. into a smooth jazz tune.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "STAND RIGHT")

AARON MYERS: (Singing) Stand right, walk left on the Metro escalator. It's what the locals do.

CHIN: Jazz artist Aaron Myers handles the vocals. When I first meet him, he's performing inside a crowded restaurant in the heart of the Capitol Hill neighborhood.

MYERS: (Singing) Walk left, stand right.

CHIN: People swayed their heads to the beat. He says the song has always resonated with audiences.

MYERS: People started clapping, like, yeah, that makes sense. It was like, oh, so, you know, he had - he was onto something with the song, which is good.

CHIN: D.C.'s Metro authority says there's no official role that tells riders where to stand for safety concerns. That's why you never hear stand right, walk left in announcements or read it on signs.

MYERS: It would be nice to be on the Metro, and then people walking down - folks like stand right, walk left. Come on, people. Let's get this thing together.

CHIN: The rule isn't a norm everywhere. In Australia, it's stand left, walk right. In Shanghai, it's stand and walk whichever side has room. But that probably won't stop D.C. subway riders from enforcing their code or singing to tourists under their breath. Yu Sun Chin, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "STAND RIGHT")

MYERS: (Singing) It's like the Golden Rule. Walk left, stand right. You won't be learning that in school.

MARTIN: You're listening to WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News.

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