MRT Reserved Seating

MRT Reserved Seating.
Another incident involving the reserved seating on Singapore's MRT. One that resulted in an innocent lady being admonished for ... minding her own business.

Reserved Seating. One of Singapore’s deadliest social traps.

This happened to my two elderly ones i.e. my parents recently. It involved the reserved seating on our subway system, or MRT, as we call it. The whole incident was quite a laugh.

It went like this. After years of denial, Father finally relented to having his cataracts operated on. It was a simple day surgery procedure, and by mid-afternoon of the same day, he was free to return home. Probably because the surgery was so successful, Father was all exuberant and hungry after everything. And so instead of heading home right away as a good patient should, he declined a relative’s offer of transportation. He then went with Mother to a nearby shopping mall for a very late lunch.

Nothing much happened at the mall, other than Mother getting increasingly anxious to leave; she wanted to avoid the evening rush hour. At around four, they thus boarded the MRT for the short fifteen minute ride home. Now, as I was told, the train they entered wasn’t crowded, but all seats were still occupied. At the sight of them trotting in, a lady in one of the reserved seats also immediately bolted up and offered her place. Such was the impressive grace of the passengers in that carriage that afternoon.

Things would have stayed mundane, but Father, being his usual chivalrous Asian gentlemanly self, insisted that Mother take the seat. In response, Mother, being her usual worrying, dutiful Asian wife self, counter-insisted that Father should be the one sitting down. The two of them must have created a bit of a scene because before long, another lady from the opposite row of seats came over to offer her place to Mother. What kindness and grace! And from a tourist too, since according to Mother, that other lady was wielding a tourist map. All seemed perfectly resolved, albeit with my parents seated apart, except the climax of the tale has yet to happen. Two stations later, the tourist alighted. Before darting out of the train, she told off the Singaporean lady who was seated beside Father.

Confusing? Too many ladies on the train that day? Point by point summary:

  1. My parents boarded the train.
  2. Lady 1, in a reserved seating, gets up and offers her place.
  3. Lady 2 (the tourist), from the opposite row, gets up and offers her seat too.
  4. The tourist i.e. Lady 2 alights. Before stepping out, she chastises Lady 3, the latter all along quietly sitting next to the reserved seating.

What was the chastising about, you might ask. Well, Father got an earful of elaboration for Lady 3 was so livid with being scolded in public, she whipped out her cellphone and immediately called a friend. Apparently, Lady 2 (the tourist) was positively disgusted that Lady 3 DID NOT offer her seat too. No thanks to that, my parents had to tragically sit apart. In not so succinct words, Lady 2 told Lady 3 that she ought to be ashamed of herself. She really, really should reflect on her social manners too.

“Why should I?” Lady 3 kept snapping into her cellphone. She was talking loudly, so Father could hear everything. “I’m not in the reserved seat. Anyway, why should I get up even if I am? Didn’t I pay for the ride too? Don’t I pay more than these seniors? They pay discounted fare! And I’m almost a senior too! I’m almost SIXTY! RIGHT? I’M ALMOST SIXTY!”

Father, would you believe it, remained in the reserved seat, listening stoically. (Could have been the lingering anaesthesia from the surgery, though). Mother, on the other hand, was utterly clueless in the opposite row. When they alighted minutes later, Mother was thrown a death stare. With that, they established themselves as the devils of the day with that short MRT ride.

MRT Reserved Seating Sign, and Fracases

Here’s the signage for the reserved seating on Singapore’s MRT.

Singapore's MRT Reserved seating sign
It’s obvious who these seats are for!

There’s a lot of fracas involving these priority seats. A good many incidences did not end humorously. Some incidences actually got physical.

Which then fuelled a lot of discussion in the public sphere. For example, should there be laws to ensure seats are given up? If un-needy passengers do not surrender their seats, should they be fined? Perhaps, JAILED?

I find it all rather … … I shan’t state my word for it.

Instead, I’d continue my practice of standing as FAR away as possible from these prickly seats, when using the MRT. As for my parents, I made it clear to them that they have scarred somebody’s life for at least a few years. I bet Lady 3 isn’t going to sleep easily for quite a while. Would you? After being humiliated in public that way?

What do you think? Should Lady 3 have given up her seat too?
Or did Lady 2 overstepped?

Read my other essays

MRT Reserved Seating
Article Name
MRT Reserved Seating
A strange reserved seating incident on Singapore's MRT. One that resulted in an innocent lady being admonished for minding her own business.

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