Berhati-hati di ruang platform: Malay for “Please Mind the Gap.”

Commuting on the MRT (subway) everyday is quite an experience.  A typical journey begins with a  ride down the escalator when, without fail, some girl will stop at the bottom of the escalator to text on her cell phone.  This happens everyday.  And everyday I get closer to squashing someone.  If there were an Olympic event for dawdling, people in this city would be gold medal champions. Walking anywhere here at faster than a snail’s pace is next to impossible.

Once inside the ticket gates, passengers are instructed to stand at the edges of the subway doors to allow passengers to ‘alight’ (remnants of British colonialism) through the center lines.  Just in case no one understood the message broadcasted in four different languages (all messages are repeated in English, Malay, Manadarin and Tamil), there are yellow arrows to make everything perfectly clear.   What’s amazing about this whole process is that people actually respect the rules and stand behind the proper arrows.  Can you imagine morning commuters in DC or NYC waiting patiently behind the yellow lines? In addition to the overhead announcements and directional arrows, we’re also treated to giant stickers of local celebrity, Gurmit Singh, reminding us to be courteous to other passengers.

On really exciting mornings I’ll hear instructions like, “For quicker boarding, please move to a less crowded area along the platform,” or “eating or drinking is not allowed in the stations and trains,” or my new personal favorite: “Attention please.  This station is crowded.  If you are not taking the train, please leave the station.”

Once the door opens and we’re all shoved inside like human sardines, people look around for open seats like they’re searching for Cabbage Patch Dolls on the day before Christmas.   And forget about chivalry.  It’s perfectly normal to see dozens of young Singaporean men slouching in train seats while old folks and women with children stand in the aisles.

And this, my dear friends, brings us to the climax of the MRT journey, when passengers are treated to videos about how to ride the train.  If you haven’t had a good laugh today, please do yourself a favor and watch this video:

You might also enjoy this video about how spot a terrorist if he gets on the MRT:

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