Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Unbearable Tightness of Being

MRT Lift Sign. Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/crazyegg95/Today's Today paper carried a letter from a commuter who witnesses a minor altercation at an MRT station. All but one of the stations have lifts to access the platform level for accessibility of wheelchair users, those with luggage, push chairs, the infirm, and so on. In this case, it seems many were jostling for the lift:

"On my way to work on Friday, I got off the train at Tanjong Pagar MRT station to the sound of a man in a wheelchair shouting on the platform.

I realised that he was addressing the people in and outside the lift who were not making way for him to enter, and gesticulating at the able-bodied commuters around him to use the stairs and escalators."

I use the MRT lifts occasionally; all, or certainly most, stations have escalators in the UP direction but platforms are long and if you come out of the train next to the lift, why walk along to use the stairs?

This chap decided to have a go:

When I approached a train security attendant and told her what was going on, her reply was: "He should wait, there are many customers, you know."

I'm not surprised, and have written about the non-gracious Singapore. But I spy 2 elements to this incident.

First is the unwillingness of the MRT staff to help out. I put this down to simple fear of one person with little authority trying to chide a small crowd; you're as likely to get shouted at yourself as Singaporeans are feisty and quick to fight back.

Second is a widespread lack of compassion for the weak. From the top down, the policy is resilient self-sufficiency. Getting old and need money for medical care? Keep working. Singaporeans are not all heartless sods but it's a busy city and most people are in a self-absorbing rat race.

The poor chap in the wheelchair would be better off fitting spiked bumpers to the front and powering forward into the crowd. He'd be more respected for his fighting spirit than to sit there and plead for consideration due to infirmity.