I have always had problem standing up against wrong behaviour in public places for the simple reason: I Paiseh. Hahaa.
I think it is natural for most people to feel a bit afraid of speaking up, drawing attention to self, being awkward, and facing potential confrontation. I am just a normal human being who feels all these as well, if not more, because I am very fearful of many things (that even normal human beings don’t find intimidating). Doesn’t help that most of the time, bravery and courage are not celebrated; we usually are damn good at jeering and quiet about achievements. Most people will just watch from afar or worse, some whip out their phones to capture the moment on social media instead.
But thankfully, my discomfort at seeing injustice outweighs my fear. And so, I have confronted people in trains a few times, some ending peacefully, some not so.
Every single time, I’m always slightly shaking in fear or stammering but I know I will regret if I choose not to act on it, and so I just bite through and speak up. And I have not regretted any single attempt at doing the right thing
even though I almost did when once I was scolded all the way til the end of my ride by this auntie who refuse to put down her feet and stop rubbing them against the opposite seat.
Yesterday, for the first time, I did it without batting an eyelid. And I didn’t realise it until it ended and I went back to my phone nonchalantly. woah, I am so thick skin wth, I thought.
It was a very simple incident. I walked into a train, and immediately, I felt cornered at the small space beside the train door, which made me really uncomfortable. My vision traced the arm that as locked me in place and I realised the old and wrinkly sun tanned skin immediately. This old granny was holding on to the bar for her dear life with her thin and frail arms. I turned, and there, this young chap was on his earphone, watching videos on his phone while sitting at the priority seat.
It took me 0.1s to knock on the glass frame (since I’m locked in place) and blurted out “Hi, do you mind giving up your…?” And it also took him 0.1s (before I can even finish my sentence) to stand up immediately to give up his seat.
The worse outcome (in a way) followed because the granny didn’t want the seat, lol.
The guy returned to sit back down, tapped my shoulder and signed some stuff, which I interpret as “See, I gave up but she said no, so I am sitting down.”
I smiled and went back to my phone. I didn’t feel my heart racing like it normally would when I confront people and it ends like this. I guess I am getting really thick skinned and conditioned to it, YAY! It is a good sign because it just shows that we can be conditioned to do things we are uncomfortable with, as long as we believe in it that it is the right thing to do.
Most of the time, these people who take the priority seat make the decision to sit on the priority seat claiming that it is empty anyway. What irks me the most is how they never bother to look up and see who needs it. Some sleep on the seat, some get glued to their phones, some blatantly take it like its their right to. How do I know? Because if you were genuinely unaware that there is somebody else who needs the seat, why is it that you can react to the ‘new info’ of someone needing the seat in 0.1s and get up immediately, as if in shame and desperate to correct a wrong? Most of the time when I call out to these people, they shoot right up, smile, and give up their seat happily instead of looking up, noticing the person in need and going “ohh! I am sorry.” The difference in reaction is in how the former seems to suggest them doing a good deed and how the latter suggest remorse and correction. I am not sure if I am biased to put it this way but this is how I feel after confronting different people in trains.
If I have a seat, even if I am not on reserved seating, I will very much prefer giving up my seat than to confront someone else. But usually, I’m standing, lol. And standing burns calories, of course I am standing.
So, back when I was lazy and choosing to take train to Punggol from Seng Kang so that I ensure that I get myself a seat, I always struggled with people who refuse to give up their reserved seat when a pregnant lady or old person walks into the train. I hate it that I have to give mine up too because I made the effort to go to Punggol to head back to town to ensure I get a seat. I find it odd why these old people and pregnant ladies don’t do the same (they boarded at sengkang); are they expecting people to give up their seats for them? *dilemma
The last time I took a train from Sengkang-Punggol-Sengkang-Little India, I got so frustrated because I had to give up my seat at Punggol, because no one would give theirs up to the pregnant lady who boarded at Punggol. All of them just looked down and pretend to not see, or pretend to be sleeping. And on that trip, I spent time writing in a suggestion to SMRT to start a Look Up Campaign. Because now that SMRT has spent so much on educating people to give up their seat, to move in, to put down their back packs… I find that it is time they look at how the situation is and address the issue of how commuters seem to believe that not seeing people in need means they are forgiven for not helping. Commuters should be encouraged to look up and note the people around them. We assume that people will look out for people in need and so telling them “give up your seat to those in need” should be sufficient. It is a bit sad that we have to go to this extend to address this tiny step of ‘looking up’ before people give up their seat, because truth of the matter is, people choose not to see. So, no choice, we got to remind people to do it.
SMRT did call back and they asked me what job I am doing, how I came up with the idea and what made me decide to write in. But til today, there is no such related messaging from SMRT. Guess we can safely say my idea did not result in any output and outcome, lol.
Maybe it is cos they are too busy blaming their staff for track faults and flooding in tunnel HAHAHA.
And that’s all.
Remember to look up and give up your seat in trains!
If not… I’ll catch you.