Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Aren't we courteous?

There's a civic consciousness campaign currently airing on TV, courtesy of the prolific Yasmin Ahmad. It's entitled 'City Fable'. It features a man boarding the LRT and being an apathetic turd towards people who would need his seat more than he does: an elderly lady, a pregnant woman and a handicapped dude. I'm really glad someone has created awareness about this one of many disgusting Malaysian habits, although it also saddens me how we actually have to watch a bloody public service ad to remind us to use our common sense. This is also considering that there are signs stategically plastered all over each train in both English and Malay:

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(My friend Albert and I wonder if the last line is set in capitals for sarcastic effect or otherwise.)

Whenever I get up and offer my seat to people on the LRT, I get glared at. A spiteful glare, like they're saying, ooh you think you're all kind and everything and I'm supposed to feel bad now, ooh I'm so scared. I suspect people are especially surprised at my actions becuase of my fashion extremes of looking like a punk or a priss. There was this one time I saw this heavily pregnant woman with no seat; I didn't have one either, so I bent over a corporate-looking lady in the nearest seat. She looked offended when I interrupted her cute girly talk with the friends sitting next to her.

"Excuse me, but I'm wondering if you could give your seat up for this woman next to me."
"Why?"
"Erm, because she is pregnant".

She jerked up in astonishment, grabbed her black folder bag next to her and plonked it in her lap to cover her abdomen.

"I'm pregnant too!"
"Oh, really? How many months?"
"...Two!"
"Erm, ok... Sorry."

I turned away, but not before I caught her sniggering with her friends. I almost wanted to shove my hand up her and grope around her uterus for this so-called 2 month baby, but that wouldn't have been very nice. Then again, neither was she.

While I constantly do my part to alleviate particular folks from the rigors of standing for extended periods, that one incident has fuelled me with frustration to this day.

A few days ago, I boarded the morning LRT. This train unfortunately had half of its seats uprooted to seemingly make more standing space. 99% of the seats were already taken, so I leaned against the wall. A girl in front of me had beat an old-timer to a seat and she nestled in her contentment. Just when I was going to bore holes into her head, I turned to the opposite end of the train to see this hunched century-old man struggling to lean against a pole. The train passed a few stops and he was still there. I was thinking gosh, that dude seriously needs to park his arse somewhere.

Before I could even start scheming, someone had gotten off her seat at the next stop. Another guy who'd just entered had his eye on it.

The image of the sniggering 2-month pregnant fathead rolled in slow motion in my mind. A rage burned from my ears to my toes. I NEEDED that seat.

Mustering all my inert Malaysian selfishness, I ran like an oaf and threw my bum over the vacant spot. The guy looked a little taken aback but shrugged it off and leaned against the wall.

The train took off again. I edged my derriere halfway off the bench, my eyes fixed on grandpa. How on earth was I going to get up and approach him without someone grabbing the seat behind my back? Ah, my good ol' CLEO magazine (yes, I still patronize the magazine I used to work for, and for a good reason this month too).

I got up, opened the magazine and splayed it across my seat. Then I wobbled across to where grandpa was and asked him, in whatever limited Malay vocabulary I posessed, if he wanted to sit down. He gracefully turned down the offer, but after doing everything I had just done in the five minutes just passed, I was not going to take 'no' for an answer. After my insisting, he finally accepted and stooped over to my seat, with me watching his steps closely behind. The lady sitting next to the seat lifted up my magazine and passed it to me with a faint smile. I thanked her. Grandpa thanked me. I nodded him a 'You're welcome'. I walked over to the opposite window to embrace the glares, stunned with the dangerous realization that abusing local mentality can actually be... sorta fun.

4 Comments:

Blogger honeybosh said...

hey yea i so thought the same thing!
that the dude who put

AREN'T WE COURTEOUS?

in caps, bold, italics, and underlined, with big question mark, was seriously taking the piss...

ah. funny.

5:45 PM  
Blogger P. Kay said...

it's sad that we live in a country where people think you're nuts for being courteous.

what was that saying again? budi bahasa budaya kita?
oh, right. putting it up on banners everywhere MUST mean its true....

6:29 PM  
Blogger cyber-red said...

i'd always give up my seat to the elders.. =)

7:34 PM  
Blogger oh-jon said...

So true.

12:57 PM  

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