Monday, August 4, 2008

Babies in Singapore - Respect Starts In The Home!

Today on the Asiaone news website, there is a story that is very close to my heart. I have been following discussions on the topic over time, on online forums and in print media, and to date have remained relatively ‘mum’ on the issue. Up until now!!

The article is entitled ‘A Stroller or Battering Ram’, and talks about the ongoing battle between parents and non-parents:

“Strolling with a baby stroller is no walk in the park in Singapore.

Parents who push their offspring around in the wheeled carriages say Singaporeans are not very understanding if they accidentally bump them. Worse, they cannot be bothered holding the lifts for the baby brigade to manoeuvre into them.

On the other hand, pedestrians say that strollers with their cute toy adornments and cooing contents turn into battering rams wielded by parents forcing a path through crowds.”

My opinion on this is a very strong one. As the father or an 11-month baby, I am often left bewildered at the lack of respect and understanding of non-parents when moving about in Singapore. I admit that I am sometimes a guilty party that uses my pram as a “Battering Ram”.

Some examples of problems faced by parents pushing a pram or stroller that I have observed (some which also relate to the handicapped and the elderly):

MRT entry/exit points – there is usually around one widened entry point for every eight or so narrow entry points. These wider access points are clearly marked to give way to prams and wheelchairs, however nearly every time without fail, I have to ‘fight’ my way through with the pram to enter or exit the MRT. This because able-bodied people are too lazy to walk another couple of metres to the entry/exit point designated for them.

MRT elevators / escalators – most MRT stations have just one elevator that can accommodate just two (three at the most) combination of prams / wheelchairs / bulky items. There are constant announcements over the MRT PA system, to advise if people have bulky items or feel unwell, that they should use the elevator. However, as a train arrives at a platform, it is like the beginning of the 100mtre sprint at the Olympic Games. The doors open and everyone leaves the starting blocks. Unfortunately, the people who clearly need the use of the elevator – the elderly, the handicapped, parents with babies, cannot move as quickly as the able-bodied people and therefore are the ones who have to wait sometimes two or three elevators before being able to travel to the exit / entry area. The able-bodied people can run so quickly, they should run another few metres to the escalator. This would enable them to leave the concourse quicker than the elevator would otherwise allow. This would also free up the solo elevator for those people who really need it for health and safety reasons.
(Aside – also, people who enter the elevator, see people in need heading also to enter, and knowingly depress the ‘close doors’ button in the attempt to make the approaching person/s wait for the elevator to go up and back down again – it is very unlikely that an extra 10 seconds will effect the schedule of the able-bodied person who should really be using the escalator anyway – which would be quicker).

Standing for the elderly, handicapped or parents with babies on the MRT / Bus – this issue has been discussed ‘to death’ and there are many people with enough respect to offer their seat when needed by others. However, I was following an article recently on ‘STOMP’ and was absolutely ‘floored’ when reading the overwhelming number of comments criticizing the request for healthy, young people to give up their seats for the needy and frail. The debate got very heated at times, with the focus being on comments such as – “did you not do your NS? – you are so weak, need to sit while holding a baby”; “young people get tired too, not just old people”; “go and catch a taxi”.

My take on this one, is that it is clearly a safety issue, not a comfort one. The centre of balance of a person is disrupted with the abrupt stopping and starting of the bus or train, and it becomes easy to fall if one is holding a baby or one is older and somewhat frail. The young folk that are criticizing those requesting them to give up their seat, obviously do not have kids and/or have no respect for anyone other than themselves – no old person or baby in our communities should have their safety put at risk. This comes back to upbringing – it is up to the parents to instill the right values and morals that drive respect for the individual.

Finally, the ‘Yellow Arrow Area’ in the middle of the entry to the door of the train at the MRT – without fail, everyday, I witness people who disregard the arrow pointing outwards and stand right in the middle of the access point. This sometimes makes it impossible for those departing the train to exit. This is especially the case for the elderly, handicapped, prams and those with babies trying to exit the train.

SUMMARY – In relation to the article on Asiaone – when faced with the above ‘examples’ (which are not exhaustive – eg, does not include things like the ‘footpath battle’ between prams and illegal bicycle riders), I have no hesitation in using my pram as a battering ram.

I will personally show respect to those around me, and allow those in need to have priority for amenities built specifically for their purpose, and clearly marked for the same – I will always offer my seat if necessary, never take the elevator if unnecessary, always give way to the needy and frail. I was raised by my parents this way, and I (rightly or wrongly) expect the same respectful behaviour from those around me who share the same transport facilities.

Given all the discussion and heated debate I have seen on these topics over the last couple of years, I expect that I will cop flak and abuse from some readers and support from others. Either way, I cannot be swayed on my opinion on this one. Tolerance can sometimes be tough – Singapore has very hefty fines for many seemingly insignificant infractions, so why not start fining people for ignoring obvious signage, and in some cases demonstrating clear disregard for the law.

Together we can make Singapore a more caring, respectful and loving place to live!!


Anonymous said...

I agree. I'm with you 100%. Singaporeans will not change their ways though. May take a couple of more generations yet.

Anonymous said...

Some people never can learn respect