Sunday 8 June 2008

Don't drink on the MRT (though it may help)

When you read about the wild booze party on the London Tube the night before the alcohol ban came into effect on 1 Jun, was your first reaction “You mean alcohol wasn’t banned on the Tube before? We’re not even allowed soft drinks on the MRT”?

Was your second reaction “Let’s say I’m drunk, do I still have to give up my seat to a pregnant woman”?

Was your third reaction “Only if she is in at least her second trimester and she’s also drunk”?

Yes, you see all kinds on the train. Even without alcohol, public transportation already brings out the worst in all of us.

Despite SMRT’s claim to have increased train frequency last month, it’s still a dog-eat-dog-to-get-other-dog’s-seat world out there.

Even if you’re the most civilised people living in the most modern city in the world, come rush hour, we’re all reduced to animals. And not cute animals like puppies and kittens, but vicious animals like puppies and kittens after you’ve taken away their favourite toy.

For a daily live demonstration, visit the zoo that is the Jurong East MRT interchange.

For commuters not living in Bukit Batok, Bukit Gombak or Choa Chu Kang who think that changing trains at City Hall and Raffles Place is bad, it’s time you are relieved of your innocence.

Once the train doors slide open at Jurong East, the frenzied stampede for the connecting train across the platform is reminscent of the hordes of orcs storming a battlefield in those Lord Of The Rings movies. There is no trace of humanity in their eyes.

And unlike City Hall and Raffles Place, Jurong East is not an underground station. So no safety barrier between you and the oncoming train. Thus getting accidentally (or not-so-accidentally) pushed onto the tracks by the surging throng is always a gruesome possibility.

So why do we put up with this – giving up our dignity, any semblence of personal space and in some cases, risking our life and limb on a daily basis just to get from Point A to Point B?

Because the alternative is to buy a car, and have you seen the price of petrol lately?

And the cost of ERP, road tax, insurance, maintenance, parking fees, traffic fines, vehicle radio licence, car deordorant and so on. We can’t even go to JB for cheap gas anymore.

So unless you’ve recently divorced Paul McCartney, you have no choice but to descend a few rungs down the evolutionary ladder and join the other simians in the air-conditioned cages on wheels we call public transportation.

Save your money – and the planet while destroying your soul. It’s enough to drive you to drink.

- Published in The New Paper, 8 June 2008