Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Humans on Trains

Crowded train

The other week I gave my train seat away to a pregnant woman. I’m not here to boast about it; yours truly is a certified selfish bastard. It’s just that the occasion made me take note of things that are, perhaps, worth noting.

First, let’s clear the elephant out of the room. Reporting on Melbourne’s poor public transport facilities and f*cked up train services should surprise this blog’s readers as much as the news the sun rose in the east this morning. Still, that particular night was one of those extra worse service events where a couple of mishaps joined to hold train services by more than half an hour. In turn, this resulted in fewer trains available later, and those fewer trains resembling General Zod’s Superman 2 prison even more than usual.
Waiting on the platform, I took note of a pregnant woman looking like she was about to faint amongst the crowds. I took note and forgot about it; she was too far away for me to do anything about.
Several trains came and went. So crowded were they I did not even bother for a personal sardine experience. Then, finally, a train with a hint of room arrived; Israeli skills kicked in and I found myself not only on the train, but also on a seat. Surrounded by standing sardines.
I looked around and there she was, two meters away, that near fainting pregnant woman. I offered her my seat and joined the ranks of the sardines; she moved to a seated near fainting position.

The question I would like to ask is, why me? As in, how come did no one else offer this obviously pregnant, obviously ill feeling woman a seat? Neither did the seated nor the standing move a finger to help this visibly distressed woman.
It is not as if random acts of kindness are absent from Melbourne territories. They are frequent and they are common and they are all over the place. Melbourne is a place where random people you pass on the street may some times greet you with a "hello" or a "good morning". So why not here, at this specific crowded train?
My hypothesis is that when certain thresholds of menace are crossed, people forget they are human and basic survival instincts kick in. We forget who we are and focus entirely on Number One, as evident by a carriage full of sardines doing their best to not only avoid eye contact; if looks could pierce the floor they're aimed at, they would have that night.
The sad thing is that Melbourne’s ailing public transport systems seems to create this menacing effect on its users, turning them from people into a herd driven by survival instincts.

Commendation is to be offered to all the state governments that looked after our public transport system so well it can now turn us into animals.


Image by Daniel Bowen, Creative Commons license

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