I travel to school everyday via the train and there’s something that I feels really disturbing to me – the reserved seating.
In Singapore, public transport such as the public buses and train have seats reserved for those who needs it more (e.g. Elderly, pregnant women, or those who are injured) . Usually there will be labels placed near the seats either or, the seats will have striking colors (e.g red) to label the seat as a reserved seating.
I do understand the rationale for such arrangement. It helps commuters be more aware and to give up their seats when they see someone who needs it more. However, in my opinion, while this helps needy people get a seat, it defeats the purpose of building a more gracious country.
What I have observed so far is that, there is great pressure on the people who are sitting on the reserved seat. It seems as though the responsibility of giving up one’s seat lies only in the people taking up the reserved seating. Personally, it gets very disturbing for me whenever, e.g. an elderly come on board, and the commuters NOT sitting on the reserved seating avoid looking at the elderly. Instead they stare at the person on the reserved seating, it was as though they were communicating to the person that, ‘hey you, yes, you are responsible for giving up your seat…’
This is definitely not how graciousness looks like to me. Even though such thoughts are not verbalize, it is just like a kind of norm that I have observed on the train. I think this has also led many people to avoid the reserved seating, with the fear of being stared at, and also be labelled as an ungracious commuter.
Another reason why I feel that this reserve seating is quite negative (in some sense) is because it kind of promotes some kind of discrimination. It make it seems as though the old people, the pregnant, those with disability are very needy. In a way, it is actually a label that say (in the case of elderly), ‘this aunty/uncle is old and is weak, so please give up your seat to them’.
In addition, this has also led to some of the older adults feel that they have a sense of entitlement to the seats in public transport. I have observed how older adults naturally walk towards the reserved seating, without saying anything, they just stare at that person, as though they were sitting on their seat.
In any case, I don’t feel like this is a very nice culture in Singapore (Or any other countries). I believe that people are nice by nature, or if not, can be taught to be more caring/ gracious, and that the needy people can also be courteous enough and to learn to ask for a seat on public transport.
It does not take much on us to be aware of the needs of the people around us.
It does not take up too much on us to do something nice for someone else.
Oh well, I guess Singapore still has a long way to go to becoming a more gracious society.