Friday, February 16, 2007

Humility in service

Japan Railway - Singapore, the train tracks are now a preferred route to heaven , or hell, as the case may be. Instead of jumping off the 20th floor of a highrise (and Singapore is full of highrises), suicidal people would rather throw themselves in front of train that is coming into the train stations. I suppose they choose to do so because it would guarantee instant entry into the netherworld, or wherever they think they are headed, in three pieces, no less. You see, a person reportedly fell from the 14th floor the other day, and survived! And no, he wasn't committing suicide. Failing in a suicide attempt can be very painful in more ways than one.

But using the rail system to commit suicide inconveniences many people as train operations must grind to a complete halt. Everyone down the rail line will be delayed and some even have to cancel their appointments. If the suicider had jumped down the 20th storey of a highrise, nobody will be inconvenienced. So I plead with would-be suiciders to avoid the trains stations.

But train suicides are not peculiar to Singapore. In Japan, where the rail network is much more extensive than Singapore's, people also use it to commit suicides. And there will be the resultant delays. But unlike Singapore, Japanese train officials go to great lengths to bow and apologise to commuters for the delays. They also issue a piece of paper to commuters that reads:

Proof of Train Delay
This certificate is to indicate that the train you boarded was delayed by the time [in minutes] indicated by the punch marks on the right, at the date and time stamped above. Japan Railways humbly and unreservedly apologise for this delay.*

Well, this paper is proof for the company that your delay is caused by the train arriving late rather than any attempt to skive. Maybe Singappore's SMRT and Transitlink should be more humble in their dealings with its customers, the commuters, in the future, even if the fault is not entirely theirs.

* As related in "The Blue-eyed Salaryman" by Niall Murtagh, page 61, published 2005 by Profile Books Ltd.

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