Saturday, May 19, 2012

Bout of Rambling. Waiting for the bus in HK vs in SG...

My previous waiting spot

The story behind this unassuming photo was rather amusing, well at least to me!

I was first in line for the minibus. It was pissing down hard and everyone was probably like me, wishing desperately for the bus to come even though we know its prob stuck somewhere in the crazy Causeway bay traffic at the usual afteroffice peak hours.

The traffic area my area in Causeway bay/ Happy Valley has been increasingly trying over the past year with the seemingly increased number of cars on the road. Didnt do us any favors when I overheard an earlier conversation of the driver with another passenger, that the traffic authority had slowed down the changing lights interval for our side to reduce the bottleneck coming from the other end. We are in between happy valley that leads to Wanchai to central, and on the other end we are smacked right in Causeway bay with the ramp up to Admiraty and Central. Somewhere has to give...guess we picked the short straw...

Any way back to the story at hand.

Waiting in line, patiently...

For anyone who has been to HK will know, everyone has to file in a straight line for the bus. I guess that's possible because we have such an efficent minibus network system here in HK where commuters didnt have to wait long for the tpt to arrive.

For those who may not know, it is a common practice to stand by the edge of the pavement curb, since we are sharing the same narrow walkway with other passing through human traffic. Tonight wasnt any more different except the rain compounded the accessibility problems with all the huge brollies clashing with each other. Still, we managed, civilly and cordially. The way of life on HK island at least.

We waited over half hour today for the bus which usually comes every 5+-10 mins, shorter wait 2-5mins during non peak. I was pretty fine until the rain suddenly swished down fat pellets of raindrops hammering against my legs and brolly. I looked at the long Q behind me. Everyone was still rooted at their spot, expressionless.

Then it hit me.
Why the hell am I standing in the rain when there is the building shelter behind me?

It was a risk.
If I were the only one who moved off, people can or will assume I had dropped off the Q and I may lose my spot. However, I felt REALLY stupid to be a sitting duck getting drenched at the lower torso when there is a dry spot just 3 steps behind me.

So I thought, what the hell, let's inch back a little and see what happened next.
I took a giant step back.
I looked at the people in the Q.

The woman directly behind me didnt budge.
Maybe she didnt noticed as her back was turned.

However, in less than 5 seconds, the 3rd man dressed in a suit noticed what I did.
He immediately took a giant step back too.
We were still the only 2 who did that.
However, my confidence was blostered by the guy.
So I took another step back.
Immediately, he matched my act.
We looked at each other and smiled, for we were both now standing relatively out of the rain.

What happened next was interesting.
After the both of us took the lead, it was like a domino effect.
The people behind immediately followed suit and presumably, everyone was happy to be out of the rain.
Talk about fast reaction! Except the lady in number 2, who seemed not to noticed that everyone has left the curb and took shelter under the building cover.

It was like a full min later that she finally noticed there was no one next to her. (Funny sight)
Only then did she scurry back to take her place next to me again.

I thought the whole episode was a funny moment.
It was a calculated risk to "test waters" by taking that giant step back.
Yet, ALL it took was for one more sensible person to match my act and that helped influenced the dozens of people behind us. My conclusion is that we have a lot of smart local people in HK who are quick the size up the situation and pick the win-win option, well except for one. Hahahaha.Kidding, I'm sure you guys know what my conclusion really was...

When the minibus finally arrived, I didnt immediately step forward as I waited for the sole passenger onboard to alight. Before I could react, this Hk couple appeared out of nowhere from my left and was about to "cut" our Q boarding the bus. He was telling his wife to "hurry hurry! there is no one!"

I looked at him.
He looked at me.

Suddenly it dawned on him there was this long line of people behind me.
He balked at the door, did a sudden turn, grabbing his wife and ran off the opp direction without a word. I wanted to laugh.

As I boarded the bus, the minibus driver was laughing and commenting to us while the rest of us rapidly board the bus.

"What a funny guy! Did he honestly think that there will be NO ONE waiting for the bus at this hour? How can he not see the Q snaking round the corner? No way he will be boarding this bus!"

I started to laugh.
At least I know that even if I didnt stop him, the driver would have.

This is one of the plus points I love about HK.
The systematic line to board the bus & their relatively observant drivers. 

Granted there are no fancy bus shelters aka advertisement shelter like those in Singapore, however as a commuter, I much rather be boarding the bus in the sequence that we were there first on the spot, than having to squeeze, fight, get shoved with many other people who are rushing to board a (crowded) bus esp during peak hours.

I had once waited for whole hour @Suntec city bustsop, only to miss 4 buses of the same number simply because I wasnt good at fighting and vying for a spot near the door.

I couldnt sum up the courage to be a Super Bitch or do it the PRC push & shove way because I wasnt brought up to "fight with claws out" over something that should be socially civilised in the first place.In the end, I gave up and took a cab home. It was frustrating over the time wasted & still not able to board that freaking bus. That incident was 3 years ago, and given the recent spate of MRT breakdowns, I am pretty sure the bus wait isnt going to get better.

In the past (yes.. the good ole days of less than 5million people) when I was growing up, even though there wasnt a Q system, but at least people politely form a line to board the bus when they see the bus coming. People just naturally fall in line. Now, it's just a mess with everyone crowding ROUND the door. Unlike the old spacious bus stop WITHOUT the advertisement boards, the current freaking narrow shelter isnt helping the situation.

I dont know why, but I had thought all along, logically as a country progresses economically, the infrastruture and way of life should be better, at least for a country like ours who loves to clamour for the top spot in all those ranking charts of world surveys.However, sadly it hasnt seemed so for my country.
No, not lately.

I guess they can easily pin a value or check the box against conditions such as "safety" ,"cleaniness" ,"efficiency", "business friendliness", "ease of adaptability for foreigners" but they cannot pin a value on "civilised behavior", "empathy" ,"helpfulness" because these are character traits of the people, not the ROI value of a country. The necessary elements to sustain a country organically from within but sorely neglected in my country.

It's disappointing because there was once a brief glimpse of potential for this young country, but now for various unaccounted reasons, she has fallen to "shambles" in so many ways. Of course we are nowhere near 3rd world country which so many naysayers like to put it, but seriously, it is a far cry from the sort of country I had envisioned when I was growing up.

I havent lost the loyalty (yet) to my own motherland Singapore (nope not china by long mile), but I had certaintly lost the naivety thinking that it's one of the best city state with best practices and facilities. Living abroad has certainly opened my eyes and broaden my mind, the ability to make concrete comparisons and not shooting blanks in the air.

I wonder how the people in charge in our country's public services esp public trpt can get their dose of reality, short of crashing the existing system or being forced to leave their jobs coz they simply screwed up. While not everything is bad in Sg, yet what will it take to see those necessary changes, or recovery? Recent news. LTA was thinking of serving a fine to SMRT for each failure to "comply" to the proposed additional framework. Great, how does that benefit us as commuters? Another impending fare hike? Perhaps, it will take the edge off more if SMRT offered one extra free ride to all affected commuters, not just free ride for the affected ride. Afterall wont that be a more equitable "fine-reward" scheme considering it is OUR time you are wasting and not LTA? 

I digress.
At the end of the day, to simply quote a Sg friend, currently living abroad as well... "In SG, we havent moved on socially. We think we have, but really, we really havent..."

No comments: