Friday, January 12, 2007

Checkpoints, Pat-downs and Losing my Grip (and my Seat)

I took the bus to work yesterday and today. On both days, the bus pulled over at a checkpoint and the passengers had to "offload". A brief inspection of my ID, a not-so-brief pat-down in full view of the general public and after answering one question ("Where are you from?") I joined the rest of the passengers until we could get back inside the bus.

Yesterday I noticed that the people didn't queue up and as soon as the bus pulled up, everybody madly scrambled to get in. I was a standing passenger before the checkpoint and I wasn't looking to get a seat when I got in again. But some people sure were. It struck me that several fellow standing passengers now had planted themselves firmly in seats previously occupied by middle aged women (who now had to stand) and some young mothers with kids who couldn't get in quickly enough had no choice but to complete the rest of their journey standing.

Of course no one attempted to politely ask for their seat back. In fact, no one said anything. No one ever does. They seem to think it will lead into an altercation of some sort or they will be verbally abused in public.

Today I managed to get a seat - and I needed one because I had to carry some stuff - and as I got down at the checkpoint (which was the same place as yesterday, coincidentally) I decided not to jump back into the bus like a monkey afterwards. Instead I waited patiently until it was my turn to get in and found all the seats were taken. I remembered where I had been seated previously (which was now occupied by a middle aged man) and I politely told the man he was sitting where I had been prior to getting off the bus.


"I would like my seat back please"

"No" <looks out of the window>

"It was where I was sitting prior to the checkpoint and I have a right to sit there afterwards"

<totally ignores me>

It didn't make me long to realise this wasn't going anywhere. So I moved on. Another passenger kindly offered to hold my laptop bag and books for the rest of the journey. What really struck me was how everyone else seemed to accept the behaviour of certain people.

Checkpoints do not bother me. The inspection of my ID, the basic questions and pat-downs don't bother me either. It's a security measure after all and I have to abide by the law of the land. What bothers me is the manner in which people treat each other here. The sheer lack of respect and the manner in which it is tolerated. It's not something I come face-to-face with on a regular basis and I don't know how some people put up with it day after day.

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