On this fateful Tuesday morning, at 9.20AM I am seated on one of the dark blue seats of the Circle Line MRT heading to the Seng Kang Riverside Park for a morning of fresh air and good food, along with the backdrop of beautiful scenery. Before I get to the subject proper, I have to say it is slightly uncomfortable to be typing this where I am—seated in between two strangers with shifty eyes trying to figure out what this girl in a beanie is typing away at her computer about. But with that said, I have adjusted the brightness of my screen and zoomed out of my document by a good 75%– enough to leave even myself squinting to read what I type. Considering I’ll be on this train ride for a while now, I suppose it’s a good time for me to be talking about something I’ve wanted to write on for a while: Train Etiquette, while trying to be conscious of those around me (challenge accepted).
Let me begin with the entrance: being at Buona Vista Station on any day’s peak hour is the most irritating experience for me because of the ungracious entrances—those who are too occupied by hand phone screens to notice the exit of passengers on board and begin swarming into the train upon the cue of the doors opening. We all know it as blatant oblivion, the epitome of being inconsiderate. And when we turn it around and look at those exiting, the ‘most-hated’ passenger of the moment is the one who stands right in front of the door (right in the middle mind you) but doesn’t alight and just stands there. We all know that passenger should just step out and aside so the rest of us can get out.
The man on my right leaves, and the lady on my left whips out her phone—that gives me a bit more privacy and I increase the brightness of my screen.
When it comes to the train ride, it seems everyone’s ‘best-case scenario’ would be to get a comfortable seat on an empty train, as I am in now. Allow me to explore why an empty train is a requirement on top of the seat one gets—the main reason, I would think, is because it saves us the trouble of being aware of the other passengers on board, so we can completely immerse in our distractions and have the ride feel shorter than it is. The lady leaves, I feel even more at ease. But here’s the misunderstanding we often have in a crowded train: that only the one on the Reserved Seat has to be aware: The Reserved Seat Misunderstanding. As I type this, the man who steps in looks up from his hand phone, and consciously steps away from the Reserved Seat and sits on my right instead. We subconsciously (or not so) believe that the person on the Reserved Seat has slightly more responsibility to be considerate, the one to be more aware about those coming in because after all, you’re on the Reserved Seat. I guess having me put it in this way makes it less convincing, and hopefully one realizes that the logic in that is little, and flawed. It’s just an excuse. We all know that in boarding the train, every passenger has a right to a seat; and what exactly, makes the Reserved Seat so special that the one on it has to be extra aware compared to others? Just because of the sign above it?
The bell rings, I arrive at Serangoon Station—time to transfer.
So, I once overheard two young children conversing while seated in the train: one of the two, seated on the Reserved Seat. The punch line is when the one beside the Reserved Seat reprimands the other, “You can’t sit there! Are you pregnant? Are you holding a baby? Or, are you an old man? Do you have a broken leg?” pointing adamantly at the sign above the seat. The way I see it, the sign above the Reserved Seat is only a suggestion, a reminder to be kind. Everyone has the same right to every seat and the exchange of seats is dependent on the awareness of every passenger on board. Earlier when MRT seats were a hot topic especially on STOMP, I found it ridiculous that people were reprimanded for being oblivious on the Reserved Seat while others who ‘needed the seat more’ were standing right in front of them. Take the example of one with a broken leg, slumped over crutches and clearly needing a seat for comfort. The fact that he ended up standing throughout his train ride is not just nor especially the fault of the oblivious passenger sitting on the Reserved Seat. Did the others sitting down not see the boy as well, and did they not also have seats they could’ve given up? To those standing around the boy in crutches, if such a scene upset these passengers so much, did they not have the power to remind those seated once more and request for a seat on behalf of the boy? And the boy himself, I feel he could’ve asked. With all these possibilities in every situation, I feel misunderstood on behalf of the passenger on the Reserved Seat.
Seng Kang station, I have 15 minutes to write.
And finally, something I’d like to add to the list of Train Etiquette pointers is with respect to rubbish. Seeing litter on the floor that we all know shouldn’t be there, there’s an aversion from picking it up—not just fear that the rubbish may contain some unimaginable, dangerous, life-threatening germ, but the lazy assumption that someone else will pick it up. I live on the belief that we are only this clean because of the armies of cleaners that are on duty everyday; and the presence of this many cleaners doesn’t deny us of the responsibility of keeping public places clean. And so, I wish, that people would come to face the invalidity of such an assumption and bend down to pick litter up.
That’s the end of the list I wanted to bring up (which leaves out other subtle ones like not pushing, shoving, talking loudly, screaming at each other, learning to apologise, acknowledging each other… and the list goes on)
While it has become some kind of taboo to be praising our infrastructure, I have to say I truly respect the efforts of the Land Transport Authority and all its subsidiaries—it is with this infrastructure that I find my way around everywhere easily everyday and manage to get to where I want to under affordable concessions. And with all the above said, these things we all know, I hope that on the days I am the one committing these inconsiderate acts that ruin the days and mornings of others, I will snap out of my bubble of distraction. Or hopefully on days I forget, I’d be with passengers who are willing to speak up and remind each other to practice kindness on board or on the platform, because we all know sometimes we forget.