Shanghai metro passengers need some lessons in manners

By Manav Keeling Source:Global Times Published: 2018/7/4 18:28:40

This morning at a Shanghai subway station, I watched a man on an escalator topple backward. The man was too engrossed in his phone to realize he had reached the top of the escalator, tripping on the landing and falling back down. I felt bad for the passengers behind him, but I didn't feel bad for this moron; that's what happens to brain-dead phone zombies.

They are part of a trifecta of problems that I call the "Three Bad Manners of Shanghai Metro." But let's discuss phone zombies first, which the Chinese have aptly named ditou - the "heads-down tribe."

It is understandable that, with the massive rise of smartphones in China, local public-transportation passengers now rely on mobile technology to kill time during their long commutes. Ride any Shanghai metro line at rush hour and you'll see hundreds of people all gazing down at their phones. Most are watching movies or shows; some are reading e-books, others browsing social media.

Problems arise, however, when these cellular junkies can't lift their eyes up for one second as they alight the carriage or amble through the station. Watching the hordes of Chinese commuters glued to their screens as they slowly shuffle through People's Square or Xintiandi stations is literally like watching a scene from a zombie movie.

The worst are the ones who look at their phones on the escalator, refusing to step to the right to let rushed passengers pass on the left, or those who suddenly stop at the top of the escalator without moving aside, causing pileups and injuries like the one I saw this morning.

The more arrogant breed of phone zombies, the second "Bad Manners," use their phones as a sort of excuse to sit in special senior-only seats, pretending that they don't see the old people or pregnant women or small children standing right in front of them. These people are mostly able-bodied young adults or middle-class office workers, the epitome of selfishness.

I can't count how many times I have seen a pregnant lady or little kid or elderly citizen patiently stand in front of a special seat occupied by a young adult, head down, who refused to acknowledge them and offer his/her seat. Arguments or physical fights occasionally break out, and the videos go viral on WeChat, but most Chinese are so concerned about "face" that they don't dare defend their own rights to said seat.

The third of the "Bad Manners" of Shanghai's rapid transit are decidedly the worst. These are the people waiting on the platform who push into a subway carriage the moment the doors open before letting passengers off first. Common sense dictates that, in any scenario where there are people trying to get out of and inside something simultaneously - an elevator, a taxi, a toilet stall - you let others exit first. It's a universal code of conduct in any civilized society, though for some reason this rule has yet to apply here.

These people in particular have been discussed at length by Shanghai's expatriate community, with many debating the best way to "teach them a lesson." On forums such as Reddit, some foreigners call for shoulder-checking or tripping the offenders as they push their way in, while others believe that a strong verbal scolding will cause them to lose face. I personally would like to see metro authorities place more personnel on the platforms to educate pushy passengers. It would make good use of their resources.

Likewise, any of these "Three Bad Manners" could be eradicated if metro operators enacted more etiquette campaigns, including announcements, signs and instructions around the stations. The world's largest rapid transit system by length (673 kilometers, 17 lines, nearly 400 stations) with 10 million daily passengers, the Shanghai subway could soon surpass Tokyo's, Seoul's or Hong Kong's in terms of modernity and efficiency. Shanghai Shentong Metro Group recently partnered with Chinese tech giant Tencent to install cutting-edge technologies that will make the subway more "intelligent." But what is intelligence without civility?

Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Global Times.

Posted in: TWOCENTS

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