Les Petits Contes

About life's little observations, which matter. About hilarious situations, which illuminate. About stories which offer immense possibilities, open endings, different interpretations and perspectives.

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Location: Singapore

A nature lover; sun-worshipper, manic book-collector, dessert-devourer and a magnet for hazards

Monday, February 22, 2010

A Modern Auntie at the LRT


My former Italian teacher recently told me in no uncertain terms that he absolutely hates to be called ‘’uncle’’. I tried to explain it’s a form of respect. Here, it’s pretty common to address someone your senior ‘’uncle’’ or ‘’auntie’’. Still, he does not like it.

Years ago my Literature teacher from the UK mentioned something like, the elderly from her part of the universe hate ‘’concession cards’’ and the fact that others give up their seats for them on the bus. They don’t like to be reminded of their age. They feel insulted.

I remember shaking my head and saying to myself, ‘’the East and the West think so differently – never the twain shall meet, despite globalization, email, skype, sms, twitter and facebook! And I will never understand their violent objections and reactions!

Until it happened to me this morning.

I was on the LRT train from Bukit Panjang to Chua Chu Kang. An auntie, very out of shape, met my eyes and gestured to her seat, saying ‘’here, take my seat’’ a few times! Stunned, I smiled weakly and shook my head meekly. ‘’No, no, come, you are carrying so many things,’’ she said, and stood up next to me. The seat remained vacated till the next stop, when I decided to take it graciously, but with head and eyes lowered, avoiding the gaze of other commuters.

My first reaction was that of self consciousness, of course. I quickly looked down at my clothes – did I look pregnant? Did I look like an auntie, or worse – old woman? Should I be embarrassed by my bags? I had my gym bag, and another paper bag carrying my salad box and some muffins for Diana.

I took a furtive glance at the lady who gave up her seat for me, now furiously sending sms on her pink clamshell. I thought she looked more auntie than me, sweet pink notwithstanding! The others standing around me certainly seemed less deserving of a seat – young and nubile, and not carrying gym bags nor paper bags.

I tried one last effort to redeem myself. Maybe I am tired and look unwell, I told myself. But no! Freshly showered, well groomed, fit as a fiddle and raring to go, I surely can’t be in as bad a state as that incident two years ago?

Yes, this was not the first time I have been offered a seat (and not by eligible handsome gallant men!) Two years ago I was tired, ill and nearly nodded off standing on a bus journey, and a kindly lady offered me her seat too.

The train arrived at Chua Chu Kang, and sprung it doors wide open. As nimbly as I could, I too sprang to my feet and disappeared lithely into the crowd. I tried to add an extra spring in my step and a lively swiftness in my movements. I needed to show them – I am no shuffling, rheumatic old auntie yet.

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