All Aboard the Train of Bad Manners

Sometimes I wish I was Superman, able to fly anywhere I want to in a blink of an eye. Sometimes I wish that I had listened to my parents and got my driver’s license, instead of the crappy learner’s permit that I’m stuck with because I was too lazy to clock enough hours. And sometimes I wish I had a red-haired best-freckled-friend who had a flying car, or a friend who was a know-it-all female wizard (is that a witch, or is that offensive?) and could wave her wand at a car shouting “TOYOTA-LEVIOSA!!”

But until that happens, I think I’ll just take the train.

I may have mentioned in a previous post that the Public Transport system in Singapore is…fernickity at best. It comes on time….most of the time. It is also jam-packed with the masses from all walks of life. Heck, it seems like half the island, a third of Malaysia and the entire cast of Glee gets on the bus / train whenever I board. It’s incredible that no one has started breaking out into song yet. My point is, buses and trains are C-R-A-U-D-E-D (crowded).

Then again, if it was only the crowds I was annoyed by, I would become a hermit and stay the rest of my life hiding in some abandoned forest cave, skulking inside with a cackling laugh and swearing revenge against Captain Planet. Usually, I have my iPod Touch on loud, listening to Hamish & Andy podcasts, sermons by The City Church’s Judah Smith or the soundtrack to Mulan, so much so that I tune the world out and ignore the hustle and bustle around me. That’s right. There’s nothing like walking around town in your own little personal bubble, ignoring society around you and that persistent little old lady in the corner who keeps staring at you.

Good times.

People are so inconsiderate on public transport, it’s unbelievable. Frequent readers of my blog or those with great long-term memory might remember me telling this story of a man that I slammed. In the Singaporean news lately, there was also an incident of unreasonable passengers on a bus, where an old lady and a younger one traded verbal ripostes and served to make national headlines. There’s also this song by Matt Bennett, who plays Robbie Shapiro on Nickelodeon’s Victorious. Okay, the latter isn’t really relevant, but you get my point. There are plenty of annoying people who, whether deliberately or unknowingly, make the lives of fellow bus or train passengers more uncomfortable than when your friends describe the colour of their stool to you just after an unappetising breakfast of oily, sticky fried noodles.

And I was unfortunate to run into some of them just the other day.

So there I was, with my mum and my brother,  getting on the train to church on a Sunday. There was a row of five seats, and as the seats on the end were reserved for (1) elderly people, (2) pregnant ladies (or men, I guess. Gotta be equal), (3) Parents with small kids, (4) people with disabilities, (5) Jabba the Hut, and (6) The Queen of England, the three of us placed ourselves on the trio of seats in the middle. Wise decision, we thought.

Because we wouldn’t want to sit next to THAT now, would we?

After a station or two, the train was beginning to fill up. Of course, I wasn’t bothered by the increasing crowd – I had a seat, I was next to my mum, and I was listening to Owl City: Live in Los Angeles while reading ebooks on my handy-dandy notebook iPod Touch. I was in my little bubble of solidarity, and damn if it wasn’t comfortable. Before I knew it, we had already traversed eight stations, more than halfway there. Also, what seemed to be Jay Chou’s entire fanbase was filling up the train, such that all the seats were taken (except for the reserved one on my right-hand side) and the carriage was about 70% full. Suddenly, movement. A young couple in their 20s pushed through the crowd until they were at the empty seat. Without warning, they did what no one past the age of five would ever have done.

The woman didn’t sit down, leaving the man to be gentlemanly and suffer in silence. The man didn’t sit on the seat, leaving the girl to stand there silently fuming. The girl didn’t sit on the man’s lap, thus sharing the seat in an adorable, lovestruck manner. No, they both squeezed into the single seat next to me.

Both of them. Into the seat. Next to me.

I was shocked out of my little bubble of solidarity by the feeling of a body squeezing into me with all the size and metaphorical warmth and comfort of an elephant carcass. Turning to look at the couple squishing together (and into me), I was flabbergasted. Now, I could have decided to ignore the feeling of discomfort and keep my sitting position, or I could have started causing a scene, giving them a piece of my mind with a rant aimed to burst their eardrums and embarrass them to the third generation.

Instead, I stood up, offered them my seat, and walked away.

Pressing the Detonator as I did so.

Of course, I had to weather the abashed looks of the two, saying “Oh no, we don’t need the seat!”. I just gritted my teeth, smiled and nodded, acting like I was feeling charitable in giving up my seat and blatantly disguising the fact that I was disgustingly forced out of it. I rode the rest of the trip in silence, alternating between reading my ebook and glaring at the couple.

Perhaps you might think I was making a mountain out of a molehill. Let me just say, if something like that had occurred to a lesser man, there would be bloody murder on the train tracks. Personally, I think I handled that very well – I politely gave them the seat and took no notice of the way they forced me out. But this is a message to the people out there who might consider doing this to unfortunate train commuters: I will start a club / order / coven elegantly titled: People With Chainsaws to Punish Those Who Force Others Out of Their Seats, or PWCPTWFOOTS.

It rolls right off the tongue.

But all jokes aside, I do have to take a step back and consider the cause of my inner rage. Yes, the couple were rude, and yes, that seat was mine by possession (not the Ghostbusters type, doofus), but even though I gave it up, I had no reason come after them with a buzzing chainsaw. A disapproving look, perhaps; a strongly worded letter to their parents, quite possibly. But for all those who lose their tempers and raise a ruckus, even coming to blows, could we just take a step back and realise that our pride is not so important in this instance? Could we realise that the train ticket does not automatically mean that that seat is yours by right? Could we just give the seat to the arrogant person with a smile and blog about your true feelings later? Perhaps then, we could have a smoother ride – one fraught with tension and hidden intents surpassing Silence of The Lambs, but a ride without any fights, arguments, or newsworthy items.

All in all, before you act, just take a step back and consider what you’re doing. Politeness is the key, which is what I did……unlike my friend. Some random woman was blocking the train doors once, preventing the people inside from leaving by her presence alone. My friend “accidentally” took the opportunity to swing his backpack around, clipping the woman and knocking her out of the way.

Don’t do that, kids.

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    • tish
    • August 25th, 2012

    i purposefully bump into people who are rudely in the way…its fun. The last time i said excuse me loudly to a group of sidewalk hogging yuppies i got mouthed off at like i was the one being rude, so i dont ask anymore :p

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