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A round peg in a world of square holes...

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

2 Trains, 2 Years



All she is asking for is a seat on the train

I am 62 years old. I work part-time and travel by public transport. My journey to and from my place of work by MRT takes at least two hours each day.

At my age, I cannot stand for more than 10 minutes before pain sets in. It starts from the knees, then radiates to the back, upper limbs and shoulders.

As a senior citizen, I am seldom offered a seat by young adult commuters and students. Very often, I have to fight for a seat.

I even wear my senior citizen ez-link card on a chain around my neck. But the other commuters turn their eyes away, pretend to read books, pretend to sleep or play with their mobile phones. Some people even stare at my card but do nothing.

I am not asking for much. I just need a seat to rest my legs, so that I am not in pain.

One day, after I had been standing for more than half-an-hour, a passenger alighted and a young woman took the seat. I asked her if she could let me have it as my legs were hurting.

She replied that she had been nearer to the vacant seat so she should have it. Then, she simply ignored me. The other commuters stared and pretended nothing happened. Finally, a man who looked like a foreign worker got up and offered me his seat.

Apparently, in Japan and South Korea, a senior citizen has the "right" to ask a young commuter for a seat, with no arguments. There, young children and toddlers sit on the laps of their parents, but in Singapore, parents let their small children occupy a single seat.

The message displayed inside trains says: "Please give up this seat to someone who needs it more than you." It simply has no effect.

The SMRT could reword this message to say: "Please give up your seats to needy people such as senior citizens."

It should also play a message on the trains to remind young commuters to give up their seats.


Lee Kam Woon

(Lee, Kam Woon.  "Voices."  Today [Singapore] 5 February 2008: 16.)

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Must Singaporeans 'behave like pigs'?

Recently, my friend from Australia commented that Singaporeans behaved like pigs. I disagreed, saying that at most it's a small minority who behaved that way.

He challenged me to a test. I accepted his challenge, determined to prove him wrong. I was bitterly disappointed.

Here is an account of what happened.

My friend, my wife, our one-year-old son in a pram and I (wearing a neck brace and with my arm in a sling from injuries sustained in a car accident) went for an MRT ride. My wife and son couldn't get into the station for some time because other commuters kept using the gate meant for the disabled, ignoring her and the pram.

When the train arrived, people rushed in while alighting passengers rushed out. No one gave way to my wife and the pram. She had to compete with the horde to get onto the train. To make things worse, those standing at the doorway refused to move in, making it even more difficult for her.

Once on board, no one bothered to give up his seat to my wife, who was carrying our son. Those seated were young, able-bodied and educated (executive-type) adults. Finally, it was two Thai workers who gave up their seats to us.

Later, an old woman boarded the train. Again, no one gave up his seat until a man in a neck brace and an arm sling did so.

When we reached our destination, we tried to take the lift from the platform to the ticket concourse. The lift was packed with able-bodied people. My friend asked that my wife and the pram be allowed in but one man turned around and remarked rudely, 'Why can't you take the next lift?'. I was shocked beyond words.

We went to a packed food court for lunch. No tables were available. We waited and finally noticed a couple leaving. We inched our way towards their table but, with just 5m to go, a group of office girls ran ahead of us and took the table.

When we finally got a table, it was unbelievably messy. There were chicken bones, spilt sauces and prawn shells all over the table.

I turned red in the face when my friend, who was helping to clear the table, asked, 'So, do you still think that it's only a minority of Singaporeans that behave this way? If so, take a look around you. Look real hard at the tables when they leave... You guys eat like pigs.'


Martin Goh Lye Thiam

(Goh, Martin L. T.  "Forum."  The Straits Times [Singapore] 14 October 2006.)

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