How to Make Someone’s Day: High Five Escalator August 27, 2010

How to Make Someone’s Day: High Five Escalator

by Jesse Galef –

It’s so easy to make someone’s day better. I’m a big fan of Improv Everywhere, who stage elaborate public displays of randomness (their most famous event is probably the annual No-Pants Subway Ride). Apart from public spectacle, they have a knack to make onlookers smile and appreciate the brief detour from the mundane, expected, daily life. But I’ve never seen them do it in a more simple fashion than in The High Five Escalator.

One of their agents stood at the top of a long escalator at a subway transfer in the morning rush-hour and gave high-fives. There were other agents with signs alerting people to the impending possibility of high-fives, but that really is all it took to make people’s day. Check out the video they took:

Everyone is generally in a pretty crappy mood when they’re making this transfer with a herd of other people at the crack of dawn. It was definitely a location in need of a bit of fun.

It was awesome watching the reactions of people before, during, and after the high fives. I’d say around 75% of the riders gave Rob a high five. There were some people who were both listening to music and reading a book who didn’t look up to notice what was going on. A small percentage seemed suspicious of us and elected to keep their hands to themselves. Most people smiled and high fived. Some people kept a straight face during the high five, but then privately smiled to themselves a few moments later. Watching people after they gave a high five was almost more fun. Almost everyone was left with a smile.

The setup

The reactions

Heck, that made me feel good just watching.

I think what makes it so powerful is how unexpected it is. The shock of friendliness and enthusiasm went a long way. We need more Spontaneous Acts of Good Will!

Happy Friday!

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Carole

    Love it!!

  • Hitch

    Loving it. All those are really good. Free hugs etc. I wish there were more Kiss a nerd days 😛

  • Silent Service

    Hi Five, Rob!

  • hippiefemme

    That’s so sweet! I’d love to do something like that. Maybe I’ll give out free hugs on campus.

  • Claudia

    I did the free hugs things for about 20 minutes with a large group. It was actually a great experience. Most people can’t help but smile after a hug. I even had a group hug with a couple of nuns!

  • Joe Z

    What are the kids calling it these days? Made of win? Yes, this is made of win.

  • KPL

    Gah, they’re blocking the stairs!

  • I love Improv Everywhere, but I wish they were EVERYWHERE, not just NYC.

  • Pure awesomeness. Starting my Friday with a smile! 😀

  • Just got in from work. That was wonderful. I smiled. The world need more of this kind of stuff.

  • blueridgelady

    I feel that things like this are largely underrated.
    I recently went through a hard time (my partner was sick, but luckily okay) and the thing that made me feel immensely better was one of the nurse’s compassion. He was super!

    Giving someone a high five or a hug can REALLY make their day. We don’t know what others are going through in their lives, and a little positivity with no other motive than to be friendly is a treasure.

  • Heidi

    These are my new favorite people.

  • Joan

    I misread the last line of your article as “We need more Spontaneous Acts of God’s Will!” Lol. Thought I had fallen into an alternate universe. Thanks for the video! I’m going to share it.

  • Gives me hope for humankind. 🙂
    I’m all warm inside just from watching it.

  • Hammurabi

    The thing that makes the video for me is the older gentleman holding the third sign, check out his subtle head bob. It’s like he’s saying “oh yeah, this is happening.”

  • Jude

    I don’t get it. I would absolutely hate this. It’s like having to put up with a greeter at Wal-Mart. It’s hard enough for me to go outside or go to a store without having to be greeted or smiled at. Being anonymous is where it’s at for me. On the other hand, I was waiting in line for my son to get his first driver’s license photo. The other guy in line made his day by suggesting that he lick his lips suggestively or stick out his tongue right when they took the photo. I talked to that guy and said, “Do you always talk to strangers in lines?” Yes, he did. He shared my habit of talking to strangers, joking around with driver’s license office employees, and talking to people in thankless jobs, e.g., Wal-Mart employees because acknowledging their humanity can make up for them having such a crappy job. I do that; I would never do this.

  • muggle

    Judge, thank the FSM for your post because I was thinking I was a freak for thinking this was nothing but an irritating intrusion on other people’s mornings.

    I mightily suspect that they conveniently edited out the people like me who would have given not only Rob the finger but all the grinning idiots in front of him with cards like groupies. I might have been too sleepy for the first one or two but the others would have got it even though I would have thought it some advertising gimmick (much like the Walmart greeters). Especially the old fart nodding his head, feeling like he’s young because he’s going along with the kids. Seriously, if you’ve gotten to that age and still feel such a retarded need to fit in, you deserve an extra hands down so I would have shook my head and thrown in a good, “Rob can go fuck himself” just for his sake. To which I’m sure I would have heard the pathetic comeback, what is wrong with you? Nothing except that I’m not a sheeple jumping through hoops to make whatever new-agey movement of the moment happy.

    How fucking rude when people are doing nothing but trying to get to work and earn a living!

    However, I too talk to strangers on line and at bus stops, etc. You know real friendliness verus this phony shit.

  • Flail

    Whoa Jude and muggle… who was forcing anybody to give high fives? There were people holding signs and a guy with his hand up for goodness’ sake! I hardly see how that can be interpreted as an intrusion. They said there were people that just chose not to participate. I didn’t see a sign afterwards that said “If you didn’t give a high five, you are an asshole”. This was a really lighthearted event that a few people did, and it brought a lot of smiles to people’s faces. No need for the hostility, if you don’t like it, you can move on with absolutely no repercussions.

  • Carlie

    Wow, jude and muggle. This guy was just giving out high-fives, to people who specifically did it to him. One second of time, max. That’s a whole lot less intrusive and rude than trying to strike up a conversation and have ongoing small talk with someone, which you claim to do all the time. I hate it when people do that. A high-five, though? Cute.

  • downer atheists! cause we have those, too! take a chill pill, people. my gawd, this is only the greatest thing evah to happen to subway culture.

    organizers, take note. look how easy it is to get a herd of sheeple to react. sorry to be so nasty, but i’m trying to make a point. the right wing in this country does it the other way; they make people afraid and angry. they poke the places where people are hurting and shout “only jeebus will fix you!” and the people respond. if the progressive element in this country did this sort of thing in this very positive way, more often, well…

  • muggle

    Oh happy happy joy joy!! Some asshat and his disciples are blocking the subway stair to grin like an idiot and ask high fives from people implying that you’re a fucking unfriendly sourpuss if you won’t take a second to gladhand him.

    No, no social pressure there at all. Not one bit.

    So sorry to not be a sheeple and gladhand someone on demand.

    He, frankly, can go fuck himself.

    Seriously, how many do you think just high fived him to get his hand out of their fucking face? Did we watch the same video? Uh, and maybe those smiles were because they were thinking he was an idiot? Have none of you ever laughed at someone for being effing stupid?

  • Katy

    Some of us prefer to see the cup half full. 😉

  • Sue

    Seriously wondering if we could do this in London: I LOVE it.

  • Jer


    two words: anger management. if something as innocuous as a dude giving out high fives gets you this riled up, then i dont want to see what youre like if someone were to give out…wait for it…free handshakes! (i know…the horror! gasp!) i mean after all, a tenth of a second high five is such a gross intrusion on the critically important and difficult task of standing on an escalator. anything that takes your concentration away for that long is sure to lead to catastrophe.

    ok enough of making you sound like your eloquently put ‘fucking unfriendly sourpuss’. logic and statistics would probably confirm that this is an awesome idea. 75% gave a high five and even if some just did so to get his hand out of their face, i’d bet more people willingly gave a high five than those who willingly did not/those who did so to get his hand away. plus i bet it made a lot more days than it completely ruined.

    btw if liking high fives makes me a sheep then maybe i dont want to be a non-sheep. i think you need to raise your sheeple standards a little above ‘omg they all gave a high five…LOL SHEEPLE’. also on a similar note, a high five does not equal jumping through hoops, i shouldnt need to explain that i hope? and if it does, then you should probably exercise a bit more.

  • The more you hate this idea, the more you need it.

  • muggle

    What do you all not get about he was just plain fucking rude?

  • p.s.

    muggle, you must hate free hug day.
    they were standing on the side of the stairs, didn’t see them block anyone. The only time I saw him reach over was when someone was trying to high five him but was just a little to far away. He made people smile- does it really matter if they were smiling because they thought he was a happy idiot or if they were smiling because they enjoyed the idea of random high fives?

  • Sue

    That video filled me with joy.

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