Anyone lucky enough to snag a seat on a crowded MRT train these days will know the struggle.
You could be exhausted for the day, or even suffering from an unseen ailment. But as long as you look healthy and youthful, you will inevitably feel the pressure to give up your seat to another person in need.
Just ask Reddit user Komorebi, who published a lengthy post on the platform to explain how he felt he was bullied into giving up his seat by two women on a train ride yesterday.
Having had only two hours of sleep the night before and coming off a 12-hour shift at his work attachment, he wrote that he had hoped to have a short nap on his commute. But almost immediately after taking his seat, a woman he described as having silver-coloured hair and looking to be in her late 50s or early 60s hit his kneecap with her handbag, and stared at him.
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According to Komorebi, despite appearing to be in good health, the lady asked Komorebi to give up his seat to her, which he promptly did while apologising profusely, as he thought that her silver-coloured hair “might qualify her as an elderly”.
A seat next to the woman freed up subsequently but as Komorebi moved to take the seat, he saw a lady in realtor office attire doing the same. He gestured to her twice to go ahead, but both times the lady declined.
Komorebi asked the lady once more if she was sure, to which the lady half-nodded. But right after he took the seat and closed his eyes, the elderly woman who sat at his original seat commented: “You’re younger than us, so you should always give up your seat to people like us.”
Komorebi then stood up and explained that he offered the seat thrice to the lady, but the woman replied: “Well, she would’ve taken this seat if not for the fact that you sat down.”
Not wanting to make the situation worse, Komorebi invited the lady to take the seat. It turned out that the lady and the silvery-haired woman knew each other, and the lady told Komorebi that she needed the seat more as she was wearing high heels. The lady also showed him an old, nicely-healed surgical scar on her right hand and explained that as she had gotten surgery before, things are “more difficult for her”.
In sharing the experience on Reddit, Komorebi did not seem to have any problems with giving his seat to others in need. However, he did take issue with the attitudes he observed.
“The entitlement of some adults grinds my gears, honestly, and the fact that they think they can push youngsters in uniform around just because we’re young and afraid of organisational repercussions is absolutely abhorrent,” he wrote.
The post drew plenty of responses, with other users sharing their own experiences of encountering entitled commuters. And that sense of entitlement was not only observed among the elderly.
User LifeonHardMode said he was once exhausted after a long day of cycling and was seated on a non-priority seat. When a couple with a child in a stroller boarded the train, the man approached him to give up the seat to his wife.
A few stops later, when another seat was vacated, the man took it without offering it to LifeonHardMode. And ironically, the man didn’t give up his seat when an elderly boarded the train later on.
On Reddit, the conversation led some users to share their tactics for navigating these MRT seat wars. Although a few said they would stand their ground if the person approaching them did not seem to have a good reason for needing the seat, several users had other means of avoiding confrontation entirely.
User Cubyface wrote: “This is why I don’t sit on the MRT anymore, the constant anxiety and scanning for more worthy people to give up my seat to. I’d rather stand and enjoy a less stressful ride.”
Ivanhlb got mathematical: “(To be honest), it’s these kinds of situation which leads me to only stand in MRTs; unless it’s like at least 50% empty.”
And while there were some nasty remarks left by users criticising the women that Komorebi met, yet others highlighted the general challenge of judging which commuters should be given priority access to a seat.
aSadArtist pointed out: “I appear young and able-bodied but what people can’t tell is that I have a bad knee, hip and back because I was knocked down by a vehicle once. Yet, I can’t really blame people for judging by appearances, because I do the same to see if someone actually needs the seat so it would be double standards if I blame people for judging me.”
Which leaves us to wonder if the solution to this unspoken tension among commuters about giving up their seats to others, and asking for a seat if they are really in need, is simply for commuters in Singapore to communicate with each other more graciously and effectively.
Should you need a seat on the train, be considerate and ask nicely, just like how you would want the other party to be considerate to your needs. And if you’re already seated, and really do need the seat after a terribly long day or are feeling genuinely unwell, don’t be afraid to explain so – politely and with a smile.
That would be a good starting point to finding the middle ground between the two extremes of feeling entitled to getting our way, and being unfairly pressured into giving way to others.