I'll preface this comment by saying Taipei has one of the best public transit systems in the world. Besides having a state-of-the-art MRT, which is clean, efficient and expanding, there is an extensive public bus system reaching to all parts of the suburbs and tourist destinations in the outlying mountains beyond. Indeed, there's pretty much no reason to drive to work or school if you live in Taipei. It's a cheap trip too; for example, I pay NT$31 (around a buck U.S.) to catch a bus and then the MRT to work every morning. Unfortunately, there are still some mean souls, as you will witness in the above clip, who insist upon giving the system a black eye. Anyone who commutes in Taipei has seen this type of unfortunate episode more times than he or she cares to remember. Here's a rundown on what I witnessed this morning. I'll follow it up with a suggestion or two:
I got on the MRT in Taipei this morning at the Longshan Station stop. It was already pretty crowded as it was Saturday morning and people were out to enjoy the weekend. A woman with two small children followed me into the carriage and made their way up to the priority seats. Everyone on the MRT knows what these are as they're dark blue, as opposed to the light blue of the regular seats. Priority seats are set aside for the elderly, disabled, parents with small children (like the woman behind me) and impregnated. One of the priority seats was empty, so the mother plunked her older child into it. I'm guessing he was around four. The other seat was occupied by a woman of about 40 to 50 years of age. I believe she knew she should give the seat up for the mother and her other child (around a year to year and a half). I noticed she was looking at the small family and pondering her next move. Instead of doing the right thing and getting her lazy butt out of the seat, she opted for another course of action and promptly pretended she was asleep.
As the MRT rattled out of the station, the mother put her seat-less child down and wrapped his tiny fingers around a nearby pole so he wouldn't fall down. Needless to say, he wasn't standing in the most stable way. Seeing this wasn't going to work, the mother was forced to pick him up and try to balance him in her arms while holding on to the strap. She also had to keep an eye on the second son, who was wiggling around and plotting mischief. Meanwhile, the woman with the lazy butt occupying the number two priority seat blinked open a couple of times before continuing with her pretended sleep. Low in sympathy and high in selfishness, she would have played out the charade if I hadn't gone over and tapped her on the hand.
"You need to let that mother sit down," I informed her. "Why don't you have a look at what's going on?"
"Why?" she asked me. "Why?"
"Because you are occupying a priority seat," I explained. Then I pointed at a sign indicating it was a seat reserved for the elderly, disabled, parents with small children and impregnated. The 40 something-ish woman had no choice but to stand up; everyone was looking at us. This is where things took an odd and disingenuous turn. Lazy butt actually wanted to explain:
"I was sleeping," she said.
Like I said before, Taipei has a great transit system. For the most part, the people here are rule followers. They usually line up. They don't litter that much. And they show patience when it's crowded. But there should be more compassion for people, such as the elderly, disabled, parents with small children and impregnated who are also trying to navigate the system. Really, I don't know why, but there remains a sect among us who are way too stingy with their seats. During the Monday to Friday commute, it seems many of this sect are well-dressed, like they're office workers. The way I see it is they're going to sit on their butts all day; what harm would there be in standing for 10 or 15 minutes to surrender their seats to someone in need, even when they are in a non-priority seat? They must have their reasons, no matter how lame and unfathomable they may be.
The next time you see this sort of thing, call them out (if you're not already doing so). Give them a gentle tap or shake, or toe-to-toe kick to "wake" them up and whittle them out of their ill-begotten nest. There's nothing like a small public shaming to bring them around. Chances are everyone around you will give you a supportive nod. Who knows? When you're old, busted up and / or plied with offspring, somebody will do you a good turn too. Or, if we're lucky, this problem will be rooted out and resolved long before that happens. Please get involved and do your part.