Tuesday, July 23

Respect the queue


THE lift was packed full. I was in the front with my wife. Behind me was a man with a kid in a pram. He had pressed to go off one floor before us. It was a rather small lift. When the door opened, I had to go out in order for him to get the pram out.

Even before I was barely out, a family of four adults barged in. On seeing me struggling in my wheelchair in the tight space, one of them stopped and stood by the door, almost blocking my way.

When the pram finally got out, the three who were waiting quickly pushed their way in again, ignoring that I wanted to get back in.

Out of exasperation, I half asked and half chided them, “Can you please let me in first?”

The two who were still outside stopped and allowed me in reluctantly. I made eye contact with the oldest of the quartet, a lady of about my age. She gave me a sheepish smile and turned her face away.

Why do people rush in as soon as the lift door is open? It was just a six-storey building. Missing the lift would not delay them much. It was not like it was the last ride for the day. If they were in a rush, there were ample escalators they could use. If I could walk, I would have taken the escalators instead of having to wait.

This has also happened umpteenth times while I was waiting for lifts as well. People ignore those who were there first. They would park themselves right in front of the lift entrance, oblivious to those waiting.

I am not even asking for the privilege to go in first. All I want is for them to respect the queue and wait for their turn. Is that too much to ask? They do the same to older people. They do that to pregnant women and parents with children in tow or pushing prams because without anything in their hands, they are more agile, quicker and could squeeze in easily.

This inconsiderate habit should stop. It is not isolated to lifts only. At the train station, they rush in a soon as the doors open without even allowing those inside the train to get off first. I cannot understand the rush. The train is not going anywhere for another minute or two. Perhaps they wanted to secure a seat after a long day’s work, but this was probably the case for the other people who were queuing diligently.

They jump queue at cashier counters, slowly easing themselves in line, ignoring people waiting for their turn. If one is in a hurry, by all means, ask politely if one can go first and explain the reasons. I am sure most of us would be more than willing to allow it.

Otherwise, they should stand in line like everyone else. Our time is as precious as theirs, if not more. To these people, I would tell them politely to please queue at the back to which they would feign ignorance and grudgingly join the end of the line.

On the road, they jump queue at traffic lights and in traffic jams. Most of us would wait patiently but the few obnoxious ones would drive all the way to the front and squeeze in aggressively. I usually allow them to cut in not because I condone it but to prevent fender benders. This is also my way of reducing stress for myself and other road users.

I never experienced this queue cutting or rushing into lifts and trains in Korea or Japan. Is this something that is unique only to this corner of the world? I do not remember such blatant disregard of common courtesy when I was younger.

People were politer and more thoughtful then. What happened? Why have we become an impatient, inconsiderate and selfish society? Do they not teach civic consciousness, courtesy and etiquette in school anymore?

I fear this impudence will become more rampant in the next generation. When adults show poor examples, children tend to emulate. Monkey see, monkey do. Is this what we want to inculcate in our children? We must remember that we will be treated the same way we treat others. How would we feel then?

If other societies can be polite and courteous, I do not see why we cannot be. All it takes is a little conscious effort and some thoughtfulness. I believe in paying it forward. The beneficiaries of my courtesy will extend the same to those they happen to cross paths with.

Courtesy begets courtesy. Likewise, kindness begets kindness. It is also about respecting ourselves and the people around us. It is about manners. We do not lose anything by being polite and thoughtful. A considerate disposition creates a positive atmosphere all around.

Let’s begin by being consciously thoughtful when there is a queue. If we practise it often enough, it will become second nature. Little acts like this can go a long way towards creating a better world.