How To Completely Embarrass Yourself On The Train – Tan Lili

After years of commuting by train, you’d think I would have developed some sort of immunity against the peak-hour crowd.

Hah. I wish.

I’m not the most graceful person around, and I’m slightly claustrophobic. Add those to the fact that I’m, for some obscure reason, usually on edge in the train, you get a socially awkward Lili at her finest. Somehow, I would make a fool out of myself during my daily commute. Faint, scream at the sight of an insect, walk into a pole, chest-bump a stranger, head-bang the door — you name it, I’ve probably done it.

But just a few days ago, I think I might have outdone myself.

Out of ideas trying to distract myself — I’d left my trusty iPod at work the day before, and my phone battery was dead — I decided to fiddle with my ring. I tried tightening it a little (it’s the adjustable type), but the band refused to budge. Annoyed, I squeezed it even harder. See where this is going? Well, unfortunately for me, the impending embarrassment didn’t quite register in my brain then.

So, yes, the darn ring flew out of my hands, and into an unsuspecting passenger’s bag — or so I thought. After emitting a pathetic squeak, I poked the lady to get her attention. She peeked into her bag then not-so-kindly told me my ring wasn’t in there. I insisted for a more thorough check because, hey, I wanted my $2 ring back. She begrudgingly fished around in her bag, all the while giving me the stink eye.

Then, one gentleman tapped my shoulder. “I believe your ring is under that seat,” he pointed at the seat next to Mrs Grumpy. Aah, of course it was.

I quickly apologised to the lady (whose stink-eye had narrowed into slits of death by then) and bent down to retrieve my ring. And, because the Universe likes to mess with me, the train jerked to a stop, causing me to lose my balance and step on Mrs Grumpy’s foot. I braced myself for an onslaught of verbal abuse, but she must have resigned to her early-morning fate of meeting me — she simply closed her eyes, and took long, slow breaths.

I’m actually surprised this didn’t make it to Stomp.

What surprised me more, though, was the passive-aggressiveness of the other commuters. Of course, some of them just looked absolutely bored out of their minds, but most glared at me, as if I had just ruined their day. (Related: Can Everyone Chill Out For One Second? – Denise Li)

Turns out, this non-social behaviour among commuters is becoming a trend — one that could lead to bigger societal concerns, according to a recent study led by Esther Kim, a sociologist from Yale University in the US.

“In a healthy society, individuals need to engage and interact with others,” she said. “The people I spoke with seemed to tell me they just don’t want to be bothered by strangers. I understand they may feel this way on a long commute, but when these feelings become part of their everyday lives, I believe there will be a breakdown of society.”

Sounds a little far-fetched, if you ask me. I’m certainly not going to start engaging and interacting with strangers at 8am in the train, but let’s all start by taking a chill pill and not scowling, shall we?

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