Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Eats Shoots and Exits by the Left Door

This tale combines Singapore's famously high investments in public transport with the subtleties of language and the idiocy of crowds. The current MRT network has 3 lines feeding the central business district (CBD) from outlying areas. A new line under construction, the Circle Line, will go around the CDB at a decent distance and hence permit non-CDB routes. The Circle Line crosses the existing lines, in this case, the North-South line at Bishan.

The designers of the MRT system do a pretty good job of arranging the interchanges so a change from the North-South to the East-West line (at City Hall and Raffles) is just a matter of crossing the platform. Similarly, the new Circle Line interchange is arranged alongside so a North-South train will have platforms on both sides.

Bishan has been a construction site for months and the steady completion of the new platform has been visible from the train, providing a voyeuristic viewpoint akin to fish in a tank.

At the weekend, they flipped over; the train doors open on the new, Circle Line side while they refurbish the old platforms. It's temporary, so the train driver (probably called a Service Captain) does the announcement live:

Please exit the train through the left doors.

The Merlioness reports that on Sunday, while making this journey, the announcement caused everyone to get off the train, wait an awkward few seconds to realise the mistake, then got back on. To be fair, an Indian family stayed sat down and I think the fact they weren't kicked off (as is done when trains reach the terminus) confirmed their mistake to the crowded platform. It depends where you put the stress. If you said

Please EXIT the train through the left doors.

everybody gets off, whereas the meaning is

Please exit the train through the LEFT doors.