When someone fell on the subway track…

Taipei subway (MRT) station where people stand in line*

“Someone fell on the subway track near the Minquan West Road section. All trains will be delayed. Please make alternative travel arrangements. We apologize for the inconvenience.”

The handwriting on the white board at the entrance was obviously rushed, but every character was big, clear, visible from a distance.

I was on my way to give a presentation. I was immediately anxious.

“The expected delay was about 20 min.”

The platform had 10 times more people than it usually does.  Like everyday, they still formed a single file, at the arrow, behind the yellow line, where the lines should begin.  Some were reading, others texting. No one was walking around, craning his neck, or blasting into his cell phone.

Then, the train came. Everyone filed in, in sneakers, dress shoes, Uggs. 

Every minute, the intercom gave an update: “We will stop at the next station for two minutes to keep safe distance from the previous train.” Every time, the man apologized for the inconvenience. He sounded calm and confident.

Then, we stopped somewhere outside of a station, the engine went off, the air conditioning went off, the lights went dim. Immediately, the man’s voice came through, “Due to running opposite trains on one track, some adjustments have to be made with the power supply. We will lose air conditioning momentarily and use emergency lighting.” He apologized again humbly.

The young lady in front of me looked up from her iPhone, then she went back to reading.

Then, the news came that the fallen person has been removed, the train is on schedule again. The most humble apology was given. The intercom went back to announcing the next stop.

People filed out, in sneakers, dress shoes, Uggs.

No one pushed through the door; no one uttered under his breath; no one cheered.

Either there are too many people falling onto the track here or the Taipei commuters are immeasurably calm.

It was 9 a.m., still the rush hour.

* Image retrieved from http://todd.is/taiwan-report-card on January 13, 2011.


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