Reserving Judgement On Reserved Train Seats

Just saw a post shared on Facebook that originated from a Facebook user, ‘Ken Lee’, who alleges that a younger person snatched a seat that his 62-year-old father wanted to take on a Joo Koon-bound train. And there’s a picture of a slim-built young man in a blue long-sleeved top apparently asleep in the reserved seat, clutching a backpack. And sure enough, other Facebook users were quick to pass judgement on this person in the photo, with choice words like “asshole”, “disabled”, “stupid”, etc.

Only 1 person tried to be the voice of reason and ask:

“Where is the video of him confronting ur dad? Would like to see and judge. Base on this picture cannot judge what u said is true. U mentioned 62 yo is nt old either and those seats are reserved for disabled, pregnant, old people with walking stick and Mother carrying babies. Yr dad obviously doesn’t fit those bills. Again, I don’t understand why people (incl the man and yr dad) cannot even stand for a 30mins ride in a aircon train? If cannot tahan, better stay at home.”

It’s easy to get upset when we read such stories of younger people apparently snatching seats from their elders. It reeks of disrespect. Yet there has been no fact-checking and no corroboration of accounts. Is there a credible witness who can confirm that such a thing happened? Or better still, was there a video clip of the incident?

And this account was not even posted by the older Mr Lee, who was supposedly the victim of a snatch-and-snooze on the MRT train. It was posted by his son, who was not even at the scene.

So before we get upset and start a witch-hunt for this guy, it’s better to just sit back and chill first.

What do you imagine a 62-year-old man looks like? Is he frail? Or is he even fitter than men half his age? Let’s not be so quick to judge a person we’ve not even met. As for the guy in the photo? Well, it’d be good to hear his side of the story (if he was not actually asleep at that time).

And it appears that even though the 62-year-old Mr Lee did not sustain any injuries after the young man allegedly ‘bumped him out of the way’, Mr Lee decided to take a picture of the man in the reserved seat. For what purpose? What did seniors do in the past before there were handphones? Did they get someone to draw a portrait of the offender and stick those ‘posters’ all over the kampongs? (Ok, it’s a joke. But you get the idea, ya? ;))

Having reserved seats on the trains does not mean seniors are entitled to seats all of the time. We do each make a judgement call (however arbitrary) according to the circumstances. For instance, if a healthy-looking senior is seated on a reserved seat in a packed train, reading a newspaper, and a heavily pregnant woman carrying multiple bags boards the train and walks toward the senior, should the latter give up the seat to the pregnant lady? Who needs the seat more? If you’re seated next to the senior, would you ask him to give up his seat? And if the pregnant lady gets the seat, and a young man hobbles onto the train with the aid of crutches (looking like he recently got into an accident), should the pregnant woman stand up and offer the injured fella the seat then?

I guess we can only say our society is a gracious one the day that seniors and pregnant women and mobility-challenged folks enter train cabins and immediately, people who were actually seated all rise and offer their seats to these folks who need them more. And we can take off those silly “Reserved Seating” stickers.

Instead of promoting graciousness, we’re breeding a certain sense of entitlement. There are seniors who do not join the queue at the MRT platforms, and instead waltz their way into the cabins when the train doors open. Should the young queue-abiding commuters take pictures of the seniors and post them on social media? Of course not. We just live and let live.

Also, some parents believe (erroneously or not) that young children deserve to take those reserved seats. I’ve seen kids in the reserved seats, with parents beside them, and I wonder why they deserve those seats? Some are certainly too young to have to pay the train fare so they are riding for free, and most of them are definitely not disabled. So why do parents not seat young children on laps, and leave the reserved seats for other commuters? What should we do upon witnessing such a sight? Take a photo and post it on Facebook?