Strangers in the Train

I work in the heart of Kuala Lumpur, within 2 km radius from both the KL Tower and the PETRONAS Twin Tower. The public transport is quite extensive here, ranging from buses to monorails to LRT to KTM commuters. I am fortunate as my workplace is a minute walk from one of the LRT stations, which is couple of stops away from the Petronas Twin Tower and my residence, no interchange required.

View from each end of my office

View from each end of my office

I take the train at least once per workday, either for lunch or going back home, or both. There are some that dislike commuting by train, especially having to squeeze like packed sardine during peak hours. I try to avoid packed trains by waiting for the next less packed train, because when you take the squeezing part away, there is a lot that you can see and experience in the train.

At different time of the day, the overall mannerism of the passengers in the train is distinctive. During off-peak hours for example lunch hours, are working adults, excited to take a break from their usual and head out to different eateries. During peak hours especially after working hours, the passengers are tired and gets annoyed more easily.

The train is a place for inevitable eavesdropping. Once during lunch hour, I overhear a cold joke about three different rings by a middle-age man to his two male colleagues. Although the joke is old, it lightens the mood of the train with (forced) laughter from his fellow companions. It goes like this:

“There are three rings in every relationship. First, the engagement ring. Then comes the wedding ring. After that, it is the suffering.”

After working hours, despite a long stressful day at work, people in general are quite considerate and understanding. At the station, they queue up at the side of the door in an orderly fashion, respectfully letting passengers out before entering. People in the train move further in the train to allow more people up the train. Sometimes a nudge is received with flash of annoyance, followed by  replaced by a mutual understanding of tiredness. I recently see a young lady gives up her seat immediately for an elderly man with a limp and a cane.

Unfortunately, the sky is not always blue as there are the inevitable inconsiderate. Big handbags are used to push people out of their way and into the train. Occasionally, an inconsiderate person is unwilling to budge from his or her spot right in the middle of the doorway and blocks people’s way in and out of the train. The worst are those that squeeze into the train even though there are no place in there for them.

This incident happens one month ago. A lady about my age tries to squeeze into the train, but her tote bag is sticking out of the door. The door tries to close but reopens as there is a barrier – the bag. This happens a few times until, I believe, someone pushes her out of the train. The story doesn’t end there. A safety feature of the train automatically locks that particular entrance, so the staff has to manually override the system for the door between the station and the train to function normally. This process takes about 5-10 minutes or 3 train rides, much to the inconvenience of all.

The staff manually overriding the system so that the doors can open.

The staff manually overriding the system so that the doors can open.

There is one weekend where I board the train to have lunch with a friend at the twin tower. The train feels spacious, with few people scattered throughout the 8 coaches. I secure a seat for the half hour train ride. As it reaches the KL Sentral stop, I observe as people from all walks of life quickly cramped up the trains.

I remember a grandmother that takes the empty seat on my left, her hands bracing what could be her 5-year old grandchild. Her family stands in the vicinity, palms gripping the available poles for support. The little boy is holding a Despicable Me balloon and looks up at me, smiling. I smile back. The grandmother follows his gaze and gave me a smile of acknowledgement. She then asks the boy if he likes to sit on her lap. He shakes his head vigorously, holding his beaming smile. He must be excited to go somewhere.

“Hold on, you may fall.”

He jerks his head into a quick yes. As the doors close and the train accelerates forward, and the boy loses his balance. He takes a step backwards as his grandmother grips his shoulders. “Is it better if he sits here?” I ask, but the old lady shakes her head and replied no. I continue observing two of them and the Despicable Me minion-shaped balloon that bobbles. After a while, the minion-shaped balloon looks creepy so I look away and enjoy the ride.



I am taking the train again and because in every person and place, I find a story worth telling.


8 thoughts on “Strangers in the Train

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