I was waiting for the train to take off at Punggol when an auntie got up from her seat and started a heated argument with member of the staff. I might have missed out something, but most of what I heard was really worthy of a facepalm.
Apparently, an auntie (just a few years my senior) was complaining about being taken for a ride on a “not for service” train. How did that happen? The staff explained that for all trains going out of service for the day, an announcement will be made both on the train and the platform. I’m well aware of this because I have taking the train during off-peak hours.
Auntie didn’t hear any announcements.
The staff also explained that apart from announcements, the display screens both on the trains and the platform will also indicate “do not board”. Again, I’m well aware of it. Whenever I see a suspiciously empty train, I would definitely check with the display screen on the platform.
Auntie didn’t check the display screens.
The staff then explained that there would also be a member of the staff on the train to clear the train before the light went out, the doors shut and the train heads towards Sengkang depot. This is where the human factor comes in. I’ve observed some very conscientious guys who virtually ran through the entire length of the train to make sure nobody was left behind. I’ve also seen some who just took a cursory glance before stepping out.
Apparently, it was not Auntie’s day and the guy on duty at that time happened to give the train a cursory glance before stepping out. Auntie went on a ride to Sengkang depot and when she returned to Punggol MRT, she was shaken and angry.
Auntie used some very harsh words and the poor guy on duty tried his best to explain. While I’m also one of those who complained about frequent MRT delays and breakdowns, I need to be fair to the folks running the train system in this instance. There are already multiple layers of protection here. Yes, the staff on the train should have checked the train more thoroughly, but it was not like some life and death situation here. At worst, you get a free tour of Sengkang depot. Safety is not an issue here.
Auntie’s situation is quite similar to that of someone who fell asleep and missed the stop. There were announcements but she wasn’t listening. The display boards gave adequate warning, but she didn’t check them out. Wasn’t she “sleeping”? So who do you blame when you fall asleep and miss your stop? No way, Auntie never blames herself. It’s always someone else’s fault and she ended her tirade by saying that she was just “giving feedback” and suggested that SBS Transit deployed more people on the trains to hand-hold and lead the sleeping, dreaming or otherwise inattentive passengers out of the train before it heads towards Sengkang depot. Yao mo gao chor ah? As if the trains are not crowded enough. More staff on trains just to make sure that blur people like her don’t get transported to Sengkang train depot?
The guy on duty was quite professional about it. He explained that it was a coincidence and they would take steps to prevent that from happening again. Auntie was still in a huff when she sat down and pulled out her mobile phone. Guess what she was going to do.
Like many of you, I take the trains, buses and taxis. Like many of you, I complain about fare hikes and service disruptions on our trains and buses. While it’s quite necessary that we voice our concerns for various issues affecting our society, we need to draw the line between fair criticism and self-centred ranting. If I had fallen asleep and ended up in the train depot, I would have apologised to the folks at the depot for the intrusion instead of raising hue and cry over their system which already comes with several layers of protection. There is no end to idiot-proofing just as there is no end to idiocy. What more can we ask for? Can we imagine ourselves in the shoes of the guy who had to explain to Auntie?
We’re already seeing how “free speech” on social media is giving our government a headache like it has never had before. However, one thing that the government doesn’t need to worry about, is the people’s desire for a “First World Parliament”. The bulk of the complains from a pampered lot, are ironically caused by the “excessively good” job the government has been doing, herding and spoon-feeding Singaporeans who neither want to make difficult decisions nor wish to take responsibility for their decisions. In other words, there are too many people like Auntie around here. Something like the Umbrella Revolution in Hongkong requires self-sacrifice and a mature socio-political outlook. It’s not just about guts. The good thing about Aunties is that they just need to be coddled. The bad thing is that there is no end to coddling.
© Chan Joon Yee