Sunday 26 September 2010

What graciousness? Want a seat on the MRT? Ask for it

There is a viral video featuring an over-excited woman on the MRT train that reminds me of something my mother told me.

But first, let me introduce my severely mentally handicapped younger sister. Seriously.

In her mid-30s and intellectually incapable of speech, she doesn’t even know how to brush her teeth and fights off anyone who tries to do it for her. Consequently, most of the teeth are rotting and her bad breath is effective within a 5m radius.

When she takes the MRT train with my elderly mother and gets tired from standing, my sister simply sits on the floor of the train, oblivious to the graciousness campaigns starring rapping sitcom characters and Dim Sum Dollies, and the embarrassment she’s causing my mum.

Someone may take a picture and send it to Stomp. So what does my mother do? She asks the nearest person with a seat to give it up for my sister.

If my mother is to be believed, the unfortunate stranger usually complies and my sister gets the seat.

When my mother first told me about this, I was taken aback by her forwardness. How could she just ask strangers to give up their seats? My mother said she didn’t care.

From experience, she knows that passively waiting for someone to voluntarily give up a seat on a crowded MRT train is like...well, waiting for the graciousness campaigns starring rapping sitcom characters and Dim Sum Dollies to work on non-mentally handicapped commuters.

I can imagine how that poor stranger must have felt.

There he was, nursing his migraine after being inflicted with the “Train is coming, training is coming” jingle day after day after day after day after day...

He really needed to sit down.

Suddenly, a strange old woman was in his face, demanding that he give up his seat for her weird-looking daughter sitting on the train floor. He wished he had a camera phone so that he could take a picture and send it to Stomp.

And what was that funky smell?

What was the guy to do?

Dazed from the migraine, the pushy old woman and the ungodly stink – where was it coming from? – he was too weak to resist and just did what he was told.

He got up and let my sister have the seat. He realised the smell was from her. The old woman said thanks.

Then, because my sister’s breath is so bad, the passenger sitting next to her would also flee and my mother would get a seat for herself as well. Two birds, one stone.

Forget graciousness campaigns. This is how the elderly and the handicapped can get seats on the train.

- Published in The New Paper, 26 September 2010