The reserved seating sign on Singapore's MRT system

Reserved Seating

This happened to my two elderly ones recently. Involving the reserved seating on our subway, or MRT, as we call it. It provided for 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 that day, he was free to return home. Probably because the surgery was so successful, Father was all exuberant and ravenous after the operation. And so instead of heading home right away as a good patient should, he declined a relative’s offer of transportation. and went with Mother to a nearby mall for a late lunch.

Nothing much happened at the mall, except Mother got increasingly anxious to leave, her reason being to avoid the evening rush hour. At around four, they boarded the MRT (Singapore’s subway) for the fifteen minute ride home. Now, the train they entered wasn’t crowded. But still, all of the seats were occupied. At the sight of them trotting in, a lady in one of the reserved seats bolted up and offered the place. Such was the grace of the passengers in that carriage that afternoon.

Things would have stayed mundane, except Father, being his usual chivalrous Asian gentlemanly self, insisted that Mother take the seat. While Mother, being her usual worrying, dutiful Asian wife self, counter-insisted that Father should be the one sitting down. They must have created a bit of a scene because before long, another lady from the opposite row of seats came over to offer her seat 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 rephrasing:

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

What was the chastising about? Well, Father got an earful of elaboration. So livid was Lady 3 for being scolded in public that she whipped out her cellphone and ranted to a friend. Apparently, Lady 2 (the tourist) was positively disgusted that Lady 3 DID NOT offer her seat too. And because of that, my parents had to tragically sit apart. In not so succinct words, Lady 2 (the tourist) told Lady 3 that she ought to be ashamed of herself, and that she should reflect on her social manners.

“Why should I?” Lady 3 had blurted into her cellphone. She was talking loudly, so that Father could hear all about it. “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 anesthesia 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. And in that way, they made themselves the devils of the day with that short MRT ride.

MRT Reserved Seating

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

The reserved seating sign on Singapore's MRT system
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 fuelled a lot of discussion in the public sphere. For example, should there be laws to ensure seats are given up? If unneedy passengers do not surrender their seats, should they be fined? Maybe 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?

About Scribbling Geek

The geek divides his free time between video games, movies, anime, and attempting to write decent short stories. Oh, and trying not to sprain his fingers from playing demisemiquavers on his Electone.

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