A video clip from an advertisement for Becel Heart Healthy Products features two people going up an escalator. The escalator suddenly clunks to an abrupt stop.

“Oh, that’s not good,” one says, as the other complains, “I don’t need this. I’m already late!” They shout for help.

Their need for rescue echoes off the walls of the apparently empty building. “There are two people stuck on an escalator and we need help. Will somebody please do something?”

They sit down uncomfortably on the sharp-edged metal steps of the escalator, woefully waiting for rescue.

A handyman appears at the base of the adjacent working escalator and yells up at them, “Hey! Don’t worry about it. I’ll fix it in a second.” He starts to ride up.

The stranded victims’ sense of relief is short lived.  There is a resounding “clunk” as the rescuer's escalator also jolts to a stop.

The final scene of this Heart Healthy advertisement shows all three hopelessly trapped and resigned to their dismal fate on disabled escalators (that look curiously like stairs to those of us in Pathological Positivity mode.)

We laugh at the humor of the situation, wondering why these poor trapped victims don’t just walk up the steps to freedom.

When an escalator breaks down, we could simply use our pathologically positive perception and shift into agent mode. Instead of a warning sign that reads, “Out of Order,” broken escalators would have a sign that reads:

Escalator out of order. Welcome to the stairs!

My dear friend, Mary Louise Zeller, is a sixth degree black belt master of Taekwondo. She inspires hope that there is more to life as long as there is life, as she continues world class martial arts competition at the youthful age of seventy-plus.

As I interview Mary Louise for Live On Purpose Radio, I probe to get her take on the escalator syndrome – the tendency to plop down and wait for a rescue. Her response?

“Paul, the troops aren’t coming.” She pauses to let it sink in. “We are the troops!”

In agent mode, we don’t wait for the troops to rescue us. We know we are the troops! We don’t wait for the economy to turn around. We notice our hands on the wheel and turn the economy around ourselves. We don’t wait for the repair technician. We turn broken escalators into stairs – and post signs to the world accordingly.

The troops aren't coming. We are the troops!

~ Mary Louise Zeller