Rush Hour

It seems to me that even the best of public transport systems, like the one we are privileged with here in Singapore, rush hour brings out the worst human behavior. Commuters rush towards the train doors, no wait… the markings that represent where the train doors will be when the train arrives. They push and shove their way forward, elbows out, heels engaged, ready for passive-aggressive staring battles with anyone who may dare to pass them and grab the coveted spots that allow them to board the train first. The 7-8am crowd is largely urban professionals and students, generally well-dressed with a look of determination in their eyes that anyone daring to make eye-contact will easily pick up on. They need to get to work and school on time, the elderly, pregnant and those with young children be damned!

This particular morning I had hit the snooze on my alarm one too many times and was running a little late so I joined them in the manic desire to get on the next train. As I took the escalator up to the platform I was pleased to notice that it wasn’t overcrowded on the side that I needed to board and I carefully selected my spot for easy access to the train car. As the 3 minute wait for the train ensued, a group of 3 ladies walked up next to me and I noticed that one of them was older and rather frail. I shifted aside to allow them access to the car as the train pulled up at the station. Talking loudly the 3 women rushed at the opening doors, blocking the way of alighting passengers who had to shove past them to get off the train. They then boarded the train, the two younger women shielding their older companion with their bodies as people jostled for a coveted spot on the direct train to Pasir Ris from the Red line.

As I made my way into the car I encountered a blockage, it was the three ladies maneuvering their way into a seat that some kind person had offered the old lady. That’s nice, I thought…fighting my annoyance as I was crushed against the back of the lady who was now standing next to her companion’s seat. The lady looked at me in annoyance. Why was I bumping into her? Was I some lunatic? A pervert craving bodily contact? She was standing so strategically clinging on to the old lady’s had that the throng of people still trying to board the train could not move past her to get to the center of the car which still had plenty of standing room. “Excuse me…may I move in?” I mustered up as nicely as I could. I did feel bad that she had to take care of an elderly charge in this pack of wolves. She grunted as though I were one of those annoying credit card or insurance sales-people who accost people in crowded places when they’re obviously rushing somewhere. I finally had to shove past and find a spot in the center where I could breathe a little easier until Jurong East where the second crush would come from desperate commuters none of whom could afford to wait 3 minutes (gasp!) longer for the next train.

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September 18, 2009. Tags: , , . Singapore life.

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