Saturday, January 17, 2015

MRT reserved seats

Tan plugged in his earphones, trying hard to ignore the stares of other passengers. He tried to close his eyes, pretending to sleep, so as to shield himself from the knives those eyes are throwing at him. In front of him, a pregnant lady stands close to him. He heard someone muttering, but it's drowned out by the music blasting from the earphones. Tan is, afterall, sitting on the reserved seat of the MRT train. It is Tuesday 8:32 am. To be inside an MRT at this time and day is not exactly an enviable position to be in.

Tan pretended to sleep but he failed miserably. Just before his consciousness quietly slipped away to blissful sleep, his last thoughts lingered on the gambling debt that he's trying to resolve. Tan had to work in a fast food chain after school on weekdays and take up tuition assignment over the weekends. He wondered how long he can do this before his body withers away. But no, such thoughts do his family no good at all.

Siew Hua had always been a gambler. She had promised her fiancé that she would quit when they got married. She did keep to her promise. If her love for gambling is great, the love for her husband is greater. She eventually had two children - a boy first and then a girl - and all was well. Until the sudden death of Siew Hua's husband, that is. Then, everything came crumbling down. When her greatest love was forcefully taken from her, she went back to her second love. Tan is Siew Hua's son.

Min told her family she's pregnant. She's only 20 and still studying. Thoughts of abortion sprang to her mind but it was her brother's insistence that she chose to keep it eventually. And so everyone in the family accepted the new circumstances, especially her brother.

Min had a checkup with the doctor at KK hospital on Tuesday, so she's taking the MRT with her brother. She's into the 4th month, so it's quite a visible bump. A kind gentleman in his 40s, sitting on the reserved seat gave up the seat to her, which she mouthed out the words "thank you" and smiled. After a few minutes, she saw her brother leaning heavily on the handrails, his head between his bent elbows. His knuckles are all white, as if he's holding the handrails for dear life. Occasionally, his legs will buckle, jolting him out of his sleepiness. Her heart softens.

"Kor kor, come. You sit. You're more tired than me"

Min guided her brother down to the seat and stood next to him. Her brother reluctantly but gratefully sank into the seat. He offered to take Min's haversack and put it gently on his lap, before proceeding to take out his earphones.

"Kor kor, still got time. The appointment is at 9 am. You sleep, I'll wake you up when we're near".

But he was already dozing off.


SS said...

Hi LP,

I'm not good with stories, but I sense the story is about things are not always what they seem to be?

la papillion said...


Yeah..I do have that intention in mind when I drafted this. I wanted to illustrate how we always judge people but everyone has a story behind it. You judge the person who didn't give up his seat for a pregnant woman. You judge a gambler. You judge a young woman for being pregnant. And on and on...

Sillyinvestor said...

Nice... LP.

Whatever the message behind, the "man on the street" feel is strong. Everyone got their story.

Only thing is: 4 months not very visible unless fat la, at least above 5 months to be "very" visible.

Beside the "jumping into conclusion" censure, I also sense the "everyone like a free drama" feel. Might not be your intention, but story that like readers' mind wander off are good stories


la papillion said...

Hi SI,

Really?? I googled to see which months gave a slight bump and came upon several pictures of 4 mths pregnancies..alas, I need to dig further lol!

Haha, what's the "everyone like a free drama" feel? Explain further? :)

Sillyinvestor said...


Drama needs strong emotions. What's the big deal actually with many things? Someone sitting on reserved seat?

If someone actually went up to say: "sorry, perhaps you can give this seat to this lady." Is the most straight forward thing to do. Instead, most people will instead stare, talk about such inconsiderate behavior, say if my children like that u will bang the wall... Blar Blar... Emotion drama isn't it?

I will most probably just ignore since I do want to step forward. The who COw bei cow bu but never do anything is just dying to see a drama, even if it is just playing in their own head, the drama.

Hope it makes sense ??

la papillion said...

Hi SI,

I get what you mean!

I'm very kaypoh, so I tend to listen and observe these little annoyances and body language whenever I'm in public transport. I don't play games nor check my smartphone when I'm travelling, preferring to people-watch :)

Anonymous said...

Hi LP,

Good illustrations about how when we use heuristics to make sense of a situation, we risk missing out important details and coming to the wrong judgement.

However, it also illustrates that heuristics enable us to filter out a lot of information in coming to our judgement.

It is hard to balance between accuracy and efficiency and different situations call for a different balance.

la papillion said...

Hi anon,

Do put a nickname when you response? Thanks!

I agree with you! Unfortunately, mental shortcuts are what enables us to go through daily life smoothly. Otherwise we'll be paralysed by our thoughts and be unable to carry out any actions!

I guess the moderate way is to be aware of such mental blindspots. When driving, we do check out blindspots when changing lanes too. Perhaps we should double check our mental blindspots too, before making any overt actions :)

Singapore Man of Leisure said...


One day, 2 people watcher may sit on opposite sides of the MRT.

When their roaming eyes meet, the grasshopper will nod an appreciative smile to the butterfly.

"Is that you?"

la papillion said...


Haha, I will know it's you :) Heard you had a great time on Sat :)

Singapore Man of Leisure said...


Got jude girls, got beer buddies, got free food, what's not to be happy?

I guess I was a bit taken aback by the reticent of the audience.

I've had greater responses from Mainland Chinese, Greek, and Swedish captive audiences.

Maybe the operative word is "captive".


la papillion said...


You've experience in other crowds, but not this Singaporean crowd ;) So much about experience *poke poke*

Nah, don't worry lah, luckily you set the expectations right before your speech. Otherwise you really might be booed off the stage LOL