Tuesday 4 October 2005

A backside spread over six seats

Must get on first
Being a commuter, one is sometimes amused by the attitudes one encounters when it comes to public transport.
The first thing that hits you especially if you are English is the fact that the Dutch do not queue, probably, some sort of divine crowd control ensures that everyone gets on without a fuss.
The level of individuality to the exclusion of others is amazing in the fact that people hardly ever take notice of others when they walk up and bunch up at the entry points to vehicles and carriages.
Any space between a commuter and the entrance can so easily be taken up by someone who almost aggressive saunters by and inserts themselves in that gap.
This then creates another little problem; when a train arrives, it would seemingly be sensible to allow passengers to disembark before trying to get on.
However, because of the bunching up at the entry points, passengers literally have to fight their way off the train and the waiting crowd is struggling to gain the advantage of getting on first.
Walking with a cane then provides an easy way of getting off through the inadvertent but sudden collision of people with the cane; space does materialize for one to disembark with ones dignity intact. Bliss!
Chivalry in Dutch is indifference
Having gotten on any means of transport, it is interesting to see how 2-seater arrangements are fully occupied by one person without consideration of others. This happens on the trains, in the buses, on the trams and the metro transport services.
At one time the traffic police used to pull people off the metro who seemed to occupy more than their fair share of the seats; the legality of which one is a bit suspect of.
The most nuisances are either bags or feet on unoccupied spaces which only get offered after an aggressive challenge rather than a friendly entreaty.
Somehow, the occupants have a way of being complete oblivious the fact that the vehicle is filling up or some elderly or incapacitated person, if not heavily pregnant woman might need the seat.
Chivalry is probably not a Dutch word; well really, it seems to be utterly archaic to all languages nowadays.
You will be a mug to give up your seat for a lady; if one of the many of the female sex on the bus dares to look more like a lady than anything else. I apologise, contemporary and trendy fashion does not help many appear like ladies anymore.
So much flesh exposed in an unseemly need to be attractive but without the commensurate work to display the attractive.
In some cases, there is some much blubber exposed; the Michelin man of the Michelin [1] tyre adverts would look like a skinny stick insect.
Occupy for myself only
However, the best example of space abuse is found on the trains. The first class sections of the certain trains have compartments of 6-seats with a door. The rush to get on at that section is to be the first to occupy the compartment.
The first to occupy the compartment immediately closes the door and places as many of their effects on the seats such that it appears full of, well, one person.
In one instance, it was a like an obstacle course in a military camp to get one seat in the compartment because, the bag, computer carrying case, over-coat, jacket and files had taken up every space.
One would just be immediately discouraged from trying to gain entry, but when other places are filled up in the limited 1st Class common area, then those compartments come into contention regardless of the occupant.
At least, a greeting gets exchanged at entry and nothing more, which is a lot different from International train travel where usually other foreigners are more engaging and chatty.
Speaking up for silence
Some 1st Class common areas have a finger to the lips sign indicating a Silent area [2] and a red stroke through a mobile phone sign, signifying what it means. No mobile phones, no matter how quietly you want to talk.
Any decent mobile phone has a silent facility with the option to vibrate when called. Rarely, does that get activated. We can live with that.
However, one evening, they all got on and before the train doors closed, 4 people were on their mobile phones.
“Excuse me please, we cannot have all of you on the phone, this is a no mobile zone”, I remonstrated.

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