For countless of times, the SMRT Corporation Ltd (SMRT) has drawn flak about the stringent and perhaps ridiculous MRT regulations. There would be too many grievances to discuss so I will stick to the ‘No Eating and Drinking’ rule as it also happens to affect us the most.
I recently met a bearded Caucasian man on a not-to-be-named MRT platform. Coolly, he sat down beside me, took out his McDonald’s corn cup and started munching on buttery corn kernels. “Oh my gosh,” I thought, “I’ve got to stop him before he gets fined.” So out of my compassionate Singaporean heart, I turned over and told him that he wasn’t supposed to eat here.
“I know.” Came the fast response. His defense was that he was going to have an hour-long journey and he wanted to fill his stomach before that. The train arrived strategically (he was probably glad to escape the conversation) and as he placed a spoonful of corn into his mouth, he shrugged and told me, “It’s a silly, silly rule.”
I snuck a glance at him on the train and He. Was. Still. Eating.
For someone who was born in the early 1990’s, the ’No Eating and Drinking’ MRT rule has existed for as far as I can remember. In fact, the rule was erected in 1987 by the Parliament.
I’m sure any regular commuter would have witnessed incidents where friends or strangers took a snack on the train and we struggled with the decision of restraining them from doing so. The worse I have done was to put my head into my bag and sneaked a Strepsils lozenge into my mouth. C’mon, I was having a really bad cough and the itch in my throat was killing me.
Apart from debating about how socially responsible we really are, the more important question is regarding the effectiveness of this rule.
In 2009, netizens were riled up when a woman was fined $30 for eating a sweet during her commute. She claimed that she wanted to relieve her motion sickness but she wasn’t let off the hook. “WHERE IS THE COMPASSION?!” We screamed.
A big fuss was made, the authorities’ humanity was doubted; however, the rule stood strong and our lives continued all the same.
Although I wish I could pop a Hi-Chew into my mouth without having to feel like an undercover caught red-handed, I truly believe that the bottom line of the ‘No Eating and Drinking’ rule is to avoid incidents like this on our public transport:
Let’s imagine that the SMRT removed the ’No Eating and Drinking’ rule. How sickening would it be when you are dressed beautifully for an event – complemented with a puff of your favourite Chanel perfume – and it will be all ruined because you have to endure a 45-minute train ride with a concoction of smells from durian, Laksa, Char Kway Teow, and fast food.
We would then complain that we would have to spend money on cabs; the government is not being considerate because they don’t think for the people without private cars. And we can go on and on, we are so capable of doing that.
What surprised me the most was on a recent trip to Tianjin, China, the subways also had the same ‘No Eating and Drinking’ rule. A country as big as China also tries to restrain their 14-million population in Tianjin from eating and drinking in trains. Besides the occasional teenager bringing in an ice-cream cone, no one seems to be breaking the rule.
It was fascinating and well, food for thought.
Maybe as Singapore residents, we should be more understanding because the rule does create a pleasant environment. Though I do agree that the penalties should be reviewed, because sometimes, rules can be bent.