Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Rules Are Made To Be Broken, Even In A Fine City Called Singapore

Rules were made to be broken. For every written law that exists, someone's bound to break it. More so for unwritten ones. This couldn't have been more evident yesterday morning, as I set out on my way to work.

First, there was that man on the escalator, who got on the right side and held his position as the people in front of him continued walking upwards. The lady following him said, "Excuse me" and overtook through the space left between him and the person on his left. Three more overtakers followed. But the man never budged.

Second, those large yellow lines on the MRT platorm. Someone always has to play the role of the antagonist, right? I was willing to bet an entire day's meal that someone would. What was his or her character going to be like this time? A more senior member of the society (to distinguish from a senior citizen) who's earned his or her right to bully the rest? An office hotshot who gives off the don't-talk-to-me attitude with a little pursing of the lips and wrinkling of the forehead? An extraordinarily cool guy or gal who gets to play dumb and doesn't understand the concept of arrows or the logic of letting people come out of the train first before boarding, perhaps? Or someone just mean, or selfish, or maybe a winner who always gets to let other people eat his dust because he's always so far ahead? I had my answer faster than I could say supercalifragilisticexpialidocious ten times. Yesterday, it had to be the office hotshot.

The third and last illustration. Ahh! But this one shows there is hope. When the train was on its third stop after we boarded, a pregnant lady got on and stood right in front of the macho who occupied the seat nearest the door, the one with the huge sign above that said "Priority Seat. Be considerate. Give up this seat to a passenger with special needs." She smoothed her hand over her tummy, as if to say, "Hey, look at me. I'm pregnant." One, two, three seconds passed. The guy didn't move. The lady seated across him raced everyone else and stood up, offering her seat to the pregnant lady. The story doesn't end there though. Another three stations away and the macho was given an opportunity to redeem himself. An elderly couple got on the train, with the man looking older and not as strong as his wife. This time the macho didn't pass up the chance to do the right thing. He stood up and offered his seat to the elderly man.

It was going to be a fine day in the fine city of Singapore, after all.

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At July 16, 2009 at 9:47 PM , Blogger Tales said...

These things you mentioned happen so often that I want to scream sometimes.

Just one thing I'd like to add... What's with the massive, confused mess that happens in heavy-traffic walking areas? In the US, people generally drift right to accommodate oncoming pedestrians, to share the walking space. Here, people go every which way, run into each other and make no apologies. Or, even worse they just stop dead in their tracks in the middle of a walkway to chat on their phone or pull something out of their bag, blocking foot-traffic. I've given myself over to mimicking their behavior and bully my way through the crowd like everyone else now.

At July 17, 2009 at 1:05 AM , Blogger Singapore Fountain Pen said...

Tales, I'm guilty too.

And it's not just pedestrians you've got to watch out for these days, the bikers are not slowing down on bus stops and keep rushing their way through sidewalks even when there are people coming from the opposite direction. The danger with allowing bad habits/practices to thrive is that they become the norm. I can't blame Singapore for being a "fine" city. I can only be glad they're now fining people who eat and/or drink while riding the MRT. Maybe in the future, they'll fine those who willfully let their body odor pollute the trains.

Just a thought, do you think they're confusing which side of the street they should drift too? Thing is, "keep right" has been imbibed in my head for too long, maybe some sort of public info campaign will help people know to "stay left" (or right :D).

At July 17, 2009 at 1:11 AM , Blogger Tales said...

Well, in Singapore I tend to try to "drift" left. It only makes sense, since that's the side of the road the cars use here. It should be a common behavior for people to realize they should drift left when walking to keep foot traffic flowing as smoothly as regular traffic. No one had to tell me that growing up, but then again everyone already did it, so I just picked up the behavior. Perhaps some sort of public awareness campaign would help, but I wonder if it's not part of a more deep set problem on an individual level. I won't go into the details but maybe you know what I mean.

As for bicyclists, I've yelled at quite a few of them that almost ran my wife and I down on the pedestrian sidewalk when there was a bike path located right next to it. One day I was livid, because it was so obviously a bike path. I told the guy, "Even if you can't read or speak English, isn't the yellow bicycle picture painted on the ground a simple enough way to let you know what it's meant to be used for?"

I see people eating and drinking on the MRT on a near weekly basis. It's odd that there are fines posted, but I've never seen it enforced. Maybe I should start taking photos?

At July 19, 2009 at 11:44 PM , Blogger Singapore Fountain Pen said...

Hi Tales, I do get what you mean and I think it would make a good topic for discussion in sociology class if I came back to being a student. I'm really curious as to the cause. Is it also a manifestation of getting ahead or direct confrontation both in the literal and figurative sense? I don't know.

Fines are now being imposed again for people eating on the MRT. Sometimes the same MRT staff educate people too about allowing other passengers to step out of the train first before alighting or simply staying out of the way. Some people need to be told what the huge yellow arrows mean.


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