It was almost 7pm when I boarded the train at Tanjong Pagar MRT station – a daily routine. Like many people onboard, I looked forward to going home after a long day to have dinner with family.
We were at the Novena MRT station when the train stopped for much longer than usual, somewhere between five to ten minutes. Being the peak hour, commuters waited patiently in the cabin, most remained plugged in to their mobile devices. Then suddenly, the lights went off.
Passengers were told to exit the station through an announcement on the public address (PA) system due to a traction power fault.
Initial reactions were of frustration and anger. Many pulled out their mobile phones to inform loved ones of the delay in their commute that evening.
Yet, I saw more compassion amongst commuters last night than I would even hope to see in an entire month.
At the bus stop, strangers got together to give suggestions on which busses to take. Those familiar with the bus routes offered their best advise to the ones less familiar with the area.
Even the bus drivers seemed to be more patient last night despite the crowd, entertaining passengers’ queries on the routes with polite answers.
It was a long wait but there was an unspoken rule that the few seats at the bus stops were reserved for those who needed them most.
Standing at the Novena bus stop for close to an hour, I had the privilege to observe kind-hearted commuters give the last spot on one of the busses to an old man.
There was also an elderly couple who suddenly realised they had to board a bus while it was departing, and some commuters knocked on the glass door to alert the driver, who then stopped and reopened the doors to let them in.
I eventually managed to board a bus and found myself one of the many packed like sardines to the brim. Yet, it was amazing to see how no one got angry even when they were pushed.
Though no words were spoken, there was a clear understanding in that confined space – everyone did what they had to do to minimise chaos. Like the man who told the lady next to me not to lean against the pole so that more people could hold onto it, and how she quickly apologised.
I got off that bus at Toa Payoh for a transit. As it was getting late, people were becoming antsy. Many tried to squeeze themselves into any inch of space they could find.
One bus was so packed, the doors wouldn’t shut due to the sensors installed. Instead of waiting silently, one commuter from the inside decided to yell over the crowd to those near the door and told them to either move in, or wait for the next bus. A young man in office attire volunteered to step off.
There were policemen parked at some of the more congested stops which helped ease the situation, but there was a lot of self-policing among commuters themselves.
One commuter posted on her Facebook page:
As someone who commutes on the buses and trains daily, I can only wish that people were this gracious to each other on their daily commute, even when transportation is smooth.
It’s common to see a bus heavily loaded only on the front end at any regular day because commuters refuse to move in, preventing others from boarding.
Likewise, the areas near the doors at train cabins are often congested even though there may be space in the middle.
It is evident that in times of crisis, a sense of comradery surfaces among us.
But why do we need a crisis for people to show their good sides?