11.12.05

Push back!

One of the little idiosyncrasies of commuter behaviour on Singapore's subway system (aka the Mass Rapid Transit or MRT) is the preponderance of impatient, inconsiderate chuckleheads who insist on pushing their way into a train before alighting commuters have had the chance to, well, alight. They do this even when the train is jam-packed, ignoring the plain fact that if no one gets off the train, there won't be space for them to get on it.

I'm not sure if this is a uniquely Singaporean phenomenon, but the fact that some years back, the guys who run the MRT decided they should paint helpful arrows and queue lines on every station platform to direct commuter traffic off and on the train, suggests that it is a problem indeed.


200402 train platform
Taken and uploaded by superciliousness.

Despite these arrows unmistakably indicating that boarding commuters should wait on either flank behind the line and leave the middle ground clear for alighting commuters, anyone who takes the train today can tell you that there are still plenty of schmucks who plant themselves squarely over the centre arrow, ready to storm the train once its doors open, as if their very lives depended on it.

Have you been elbowed rudely by someone going in the opposite direction as you tried to get off an MRT train?
Have you staggered back onto the train despite trying to get off, because some charging bull of a commuter had pushed his/her way in with such vehemence?
Have you worried for the safety of the children/elderly persons/pregnant women around you who might be dangerously thrown off balance by such aggressive train-boarding tactics?

Then it's time for you to do something about it: Push back!

It's quite easy, really. All you have to do is to steel yourself for the fact that the commuters boarding the train may indeed engage in such nefarious boarding tactics. When the train doors open, stride confidently forward with the full certainty that you have to get off before anyone --- no matter their age or urgency to get to their destination --- gets onto the train. If someone encroaches onto your alighting space (i.e. the area around the centre yellow arrow) and their body comes into contact with yours, feel free to push them back with just enough force that you can disembark as you need to. We're not starting fights here, we're just maintaining a comfortable degree of privacy or space around our own body.

If you're feeling up to it, you may wish to say something like, "Excuse me, you can't get on unless you let people get off first." Although you may be tempted to punctuate your remark with words like "asshole", "dickhead" or "crazy person", refrain from doing so. At most, just think those words in your head. I reiterate: we're not trying to start fights or get arrested here, we're just reminding people that the way our universe is ordered, trains have a finite capacity and no amount of forceful pushing will in fact transcend that simple law of physics.

And only, only push back if you have first been pushed.

I say all this because I'm startled at the number of startled responses I get when I tell people that I push back --- yes, little old me, who can barely lift a 1 kg bag of rice. Just last week, I was able to halt a woman larger than me in the middle of her train-charging maneuver because I simply kept moving forward even though she got in my way.

Of course, as Polite, Nonconfrontational Asians, all this doesn't come intuitively to most of us. We're inclined to pause, step back, step aside --- and let the schmucks have their way.

But why should we? Because they're ruder or brassier than us? We don't have to stoop to their level by pushing our way out of the train; we simply have to remind them that, hello, human body, standing right here.

Stop getting pushed back into the train when you're trying to get the hell off it. Push back!

-----|||||-----

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Labels:

42 Comments:

At 12/11/2005 11:09 pm , Blogger John said...

I just exit by the side. =D

 
At 12/11/2005 11:13 pm , Blogger zhang² said...

Having a softball bat, a large and full duffel bag and a helmet does help in shoving back those idiots. They just walk into them as I get outta the train. Good for avoiding body contact too. Talking about MRT related peeves, there are those who stare at you as if it's a crime when you're running to catch a train. This is especially so when you say "excuse me" and proceed to squeeze pass them on the escalator. Not at all apologetic for blocking your way. Instead, they stare daggers at your back as you go pass them... (If they give way to you in the first place.) Somehow our highly literate population do not seem to understand what is "Keep Left" and "Give Way".

 
At 12/12/2005 12:27 am , Blogger  said...

that's why i avoid taking the train. if i'm having a really bad day, i end up saying "you're fucking stupid!" to the person pushing his/her way in.

once, on the tube in London, the doors were already closing and i was right next to the door. these 3 huge men rushed in and pushed all of us at the door in!

 
At 12/12/2005 12:56 am , Blogger panaphobic said...

YAY!

i wish u'd make one of those mini-banner things that i can put at the side of my blog.

The best is if you can always have an umbrella on hand so you can extend it (if its the retractable kind) and hold in in front of you horizontally so as to clear a path.

 
At 12/12/2005 1:01 am , Blogger leah said...

on a related note, i was on a public bus that day, standing, and a very pregnant woman came on, and nobody offered her a seat (which is startling, seeing this is america, not "i will mysteriously fall prey to narcolepsy in the presence of pregnant/old/handicapped commuters" Singapore) and the bus driver got so pissed off he just pulled up in the middle of nowhere, and yelled, 'WE'RE NOT GOING ANYWHERE UNTIL SOMEONE OFFERS THAT LADY THERE A SEAT, OK?'(and somebody did, duh) How cool is that? we should get our drivers to do that too =)

 
At 12/12/2005 1:18 am , Anonymous gecko said...

i fully agree with your method.

 
At 12/12/2005 3:48 am , Blogger NARDAC said...

When I was a lot younger, maybe 18, I remember being on the MRT with my father, and noting the reluctance of commuters to act in a logical and polite fashion. Just before getting off, I said, a little conversationally, "Oh, I wonder if anyone will let us get off this time?" People parted like the Red Sea. Face... it's still all about saving face and shame, and not about being polite.

In France, the chargers phenomenon is less common. However, the Metro always stinks of pee.

 
At 12/12/2005 7:25 am , Blogger Olorin said...

I think we should start a campaign. That said, I don't think I have the same freedom to push women back, even if they ask for it.

 
At 12/12/2005 9:12 am , Anonymous mrs budak said...

I stick my elbows out on the side and simply walk through the crowd. Believe me, if you don't give way, it's going to hurt you real bad.

Or I just let them get the full experience of my backpack or large handbag. If you still to squeeze, not my fault if your face finds itself caught in the straps of my backpack.

 
At 12/12/2005 10:30 am , Blogger tinkertailor said...

oh i just walk thru the traffic coming in as if they're not there. no big deal.

 
At 12/12/2005 1:32 pm , Anonymous The Fell Bat said...

My god. It's what I already do! :)

 
At 12/12/2005 2:58 pm , Blogger Mr Moron said...

my goodness. now that you mention it, you make a hell lot of sense! I'm probably being too accommodating by moving (no, squeezing) out by the sides and letting them enter the train first. Next time, no more Mr Nice Guy!

 
At 12/12/2005 6:11 pm , Blogger Agagooga said...

I'll be your bulldozer anyday.

But then cannot push women lah. Damn sexist.

 
At 12/12/2005 6:36 pm , Blogger Fatboi Slim said...

I'm ugly enough not to have any problems.

 
At 12/12/2005 6:40 pm , Blogger callandor said...

i just do the elbow thing too.

i just wish i was less nicer and then i would ram...HARD.

idiots who can't give way should suffer. there was once this uncle who refused to let ppl out first so I rammed him. He started swearing at me.

I turned around and told him to let people out first.

I then made it a point to look out for him the next day to ram him again. Heh

 
At 12/12/2005 6:56 pm , Blogger Little fish said...

I think I'm on the less advantageous ground should I want to Push Back. Who knows, some deranged booger might accuse me of molesting her, or worse, him!

Normally I just stand still or pretend to be very clumsy while bulldozing ahead and zip off before any confrontation happens. =)

 
At 12/12/2005 8:12 pm , Blogger lyn said...

it's a little disadvantageous for girls to shove back especially when the bull in question is male.

or old ladies so fragile they look like they will break into five pieces at one touch.

=|

 
At 12/12/2005 8:35 pm , Anonymous kabluey said...

What i used to do when i was still in secondary school or JC was to make sure i had my ring file placed firmly in front of me like a shield. Now the ring file has been wrapped with a plastic cover and the edges and the top of the excess plastic cover are sharp due to daily wear and tear.

I would used the edges like a weapon to scratch these inconsiderate people on the arms. Some of them have yelled at me to which i simply reply, "You were standing in my way." with no apologies.

But, have you realised that they are mostly uncles, aunties, ah-sohs and the more elderly ones? I've even had one ah-soh place her hand on my butt and pushed me into the mrt when i was waiting for the people to get off the train. I almost wanted to turn around and scream "Molest!".

 
At 12/12/2005 10:20 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Those people just want to be first in the train to secure a seat just left vacant by alighting passengers. However, it is so irritating and LTA would not want to do something concrete to solve the problem. For example it takes many forum letters to argue with LTA's PRO who was reluctant to accept the 'STAND LEFT' suggestion. BUT some time later, they quietly put up posters to urge people to stand left, they do it without much conviction.
As for this problem of people pushing in before alighting passengers, I hope LTA can do this: Since all MRT have video camera and these scenes are captured, they can show those 'pushers' in action on MRT TV and in campaigns on national TV to shame them. This would hopefully solve the problem. By the way, there are certain group/class of people who shamelessly/blatantly engage in pushing in. I noticed the pattern but would not mention it, in case I be accused of stereotyping or profiling.

 
At 12/12/2005 11:14 pm , Blogger Postmaster-General said...

Having ridden the MRT and Metro (DC) I think Singapore commuters are far more impolite than DC commuters. There are no lines drawn on the ground, but people in DC generally wait until passengers have alighted before boarding. I remember one scene where a little kid rushed into the train and his mom reprimanded him when she got on the train. She reminded him that he had to let people alight before boarding. I mean this is a 5 year old kid. I'm sure he'll grow up remembering that.

As for tackling with the MRT, I once travelled with my US brother who was 2 meters tall and big (basketball player). We definetely didn't have problems getting off the train. The lesson is big is good. Next time I put on American football pads. =P

 
At 12/13/2005 12:16 am , Blogger Darkharf said...

In Japan (any part of Japan especially Tokyo and Osaka), if a person charge into a train, or simply stand in the way of others, that person will be stared at by other commuters like he/she is an alien. And so are those who invaded the right side of the escalator, obasans will scold the person for blocking people's way.

 
At 12/13/2005 1:17 am , Anonymous The Fell Bat said...

So much for the stereotype of Japanese squeezing onto trains. Turns out we're worst. I am actually mildly surprised.

 
At 12/13/2005 1:51 am , Anonymous Anonymous said...

You can wear a dental mask across your nose and mouth in the train. When you want to alight, you just shout: "OUT OF THE WAY, I HAVE BIRD FLU!!!"

 
At 12/13/2005 3:38 am , Blogger the maine minx said...

i don't exactly push back. but i dust my clothes off specifically in front of the offending prat like i've just been touched by a lowly commoner. makes me feel guilty afterwards for being such a bitch, but i'd like to think i'm not sinking. (to his level)

ok so i do that only what, once in 6 months? when i'm really irritated. i usually get walked all over. sheesh.

 
At 12/13/2005 4:12 am , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've always, always CHARGED my way out of the train. And if they stare at me or decide to complain, I'll always say "Have a very nice day." Must show them a bit of colors. One time, I even step on the person's feet because I cannot tolerate it anymore. Push in, squeeze... as if their whole lives depend on them getting onto THIS ONE train. If really in a hurry, go take taxi lah!

 
At 12/13/2005 8:27 am , Blogger Tym said...

Thank you for sharing all your various train-alighting strategies :)

Leah > Brilliant! I have also seen standing up commuters politely go up to a seated one to ask them to give up their seat to a particular elderly person/pregnant woman if no one has already done so. Note to self: cultivate that modicum of initiative and courtesy.

Anonymous #1 > I don't think the LTA has to do anything about it. This problem is about common decent courtesy and consideration for other human beings, which is a problem that extends way beyond the aegis of any particular government agency. Hopefully, those of us that endorse a more courteous and civilised form of behaviour can model it ourselves and nudge/remind/chivvy others into behaving likewise.

I'm not a fan of public shaming in general because, well, I'm idealistic and I think that civilised behaviour ought to spring from a more noble impulse than "I'd better not do it in case a camera catches me and broadcasts it for the world to see".

As for the group/class that's allegedly responsible for this type of behaviour, the sad truth is that rudeness knows no social boundaries :P

The Fell Bat > The Japanese are used to squeezing onto trains during peak hours, but they have a very civilised system about it. I don't mind crowds --- that's an inevitable part of living in a big city --- but I mind trying to get away with rude behaviour because of the crowd.

Of course, travelling on Japanese trains brings its own set of unique problems, which is why Tokyo recently introduced women-only cars on certain train lines...

 
At 12/13/2005 9:21 am , Blogger kelvin said...

Do you think that an "underground" (pardon the pun) movement to counter this behaviour would work?

I thinking something Flash Mob style like donning traffic policeman neon-vests and directing the traffic, booking people who are in the wrong lane etc.

 
At 12/13/2005 9:21 am , Blogger mimosa said...

been to taipei and tried their train (jie yun) system in taipei city. and i'm surprised that even their govt is screwed up, their people do have better train habits than we (whom declared us o' so civilised and above all) do.

the communters over there do queue for the train, one line per cabin door, even though it's the peak hours and the queue snakes like hell! they wait for their turn to board the train after the exiting pple come out, even though it means that they'll have to miss this train as the train gets full. anyone who cuts queue gets the EVIL GLARE and those with more guts will actually stand out to give u a lashing in the open. same wise goes for the escalator. all of them file neatly along the right side of the escalators, leaving the left an empty lane for those in rush.

 
At 12/13/2005 9:44 am , Anonymous Chandler said...

Haven't been taking the trains for quite some time now. But my favourite method was to simply announce "EXCUSE ME" very loudly before making my way through a crowded train cabin. It usually works. If it doesn't, I simply shove my way through lah.

Driving's a lot worse!

 
At 12/13/2005 11:48 am , Anonymous Anonymous said...

100% agree! when i was pregnant i had to charge out so i could get off the train. now with a pram i do so again not caring if the wheels roll over someone's oops expensive pair of heels while loudly saying "Excuse me!" And what is it with people hogging the lifts when they can see old/handicapped/people with prams queueing in line for them?

 
At 12/13/2005 2:24 pm , Blogger Barffie said...

One word: "SIAAAAAAM!"

Or: "SHIOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!"

Or: "TAT LOR AH!!!!!" (Blocking the way ah!)

Or my favorite: ELBOWS OUT, STRIDE FORWARD, AND TSK AT ANYBODY WHO DARE INTRUDE

 
At 12/13/2005 2:38 pm , Anonymous Chandler said...

pAnonymous -> Wah, pregnant lady also no gif chance ah?!

How can liddat ...

 
At 12/13/2005 5:08 pm , Blogger beAr said...

hmmm... this phenomenon is also all-too-common in china - experienced it first hand in beijing / shanghai. beijing is especially terrible; if you think singapore's bad, then it's hell in beijing =P

i too shove when being shoved; can't help it when dealing some of the inconsiderate chinese... and i put my 25kg suitcase with wheels to good use at train stations =)

 
At 12/13/2005 5:10 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

i scared i injure ppl leh, and somemore im a guy, if some girl/woman/ah soh scream molest, i sure kana liao.

but most of those ppl who rush in are older ppl, cant stand them. maybe i'll rugby tackle them down

 
At 12/13/2005 5:26 pm , Anonymous hmph said...

I say we all arm ourselves with a camera and snap a photo of the person already standing at the door and blocking our way.

Then upload these pix to sginconsideratemrtusers.com

 
At 12/13/2005 6:13 pm , Blogger shadow said...

postmaster-general, definitely. In Singapore, what you get are mothers shoving their kids into the train before the doors are fully open, yelling,"Quick! Quick! Chope seat for mommy!" or "Push! Push! Don't scared!"

 
At 12/13/2005 11:45 pm , Anonymous Lina said...

I am truly ashamed to see that the older Chinese community are the culprits that push and shove others out of their way to get a seat. I make it a point never to give up my seat to fat aunties, for they are far stronger and always push me away with great strength. Guess my 40kg frame can't cut it, for I am always a prime target for shovers. Please if anyone knows of a fool proof way for me to alight without any more bruises, tell me! I'm so scared and can't wait to get a license for a car for I can't stand taking the MRT to school daily anymore. I tried shouting Excuse Me many times, but apparently everyone around me is deaf.

 
At 12/14/2005 8:47 am , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Start scratching everywhere just before train stops and door opens. It'll work in town, where the average riders are well-dressed but still behave like cavemen. :-)

 
At 12/14/2005 3:23 pm , Anonymous jaded said...

On the flipside are numbnuts who take forever to get off at their stop, dragging their asses off the seats after the train stops the dallying to the door.

 
At 12/16/2005 11:49 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sometimes, i really cant understand why people insist on squeezing in when the people in the train have not even stepped out.

in Taipei, the commuters line up patiently while the people in the train alight. i was truly impressed by their orderliness. They also practice the "keep right" (in singapore its left) rule on escalators. i have not encountered a situation (in taipei) where there are people blocking the left side of the escalotor.

 
At 12/18/2005 12:50 am , Blogger Pkchukiss said...

I am really glad that I am not alone in this: My friends are worried for me whenever I do my best to barge my way out of trains.

I really hope that commuters would stand up to this absurd and illogical behaviour.

 
At 12/21/2005 6:52 am , Anonymous My Little Rascal said...

That's what I always do, "Push Back". I just don't give a damn. So what if they're bigger size than me. Or I'll stand still right in front of them, until they move aside and let me pass thru.

While waiting for the MRT, I always tell my little boy not to stand in the middle, he should give way to those people who are coming out of the MRT. Of course, indirectly I'm telling those inconsiderate people who are standing beside me.

 

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

 
-->