NSmen given free rides for NS50

From ‘Make it easy for NSmen to take free rides’, 26 June 2017, ST Forum

(Elvis Zhang Haowei): As part of the NS50 celebrations this year, all individuals who have performed or are performing national service will be given free rides on public transport on Friday if they wear their uniforms.

While the intentions behind this initiative are certainly good, the execution on the day itself could present several difficulties. According to official instructions given by SMRT, NSmen who wish to take the LRT free should contact the station staff through the intercom beside the fare gantries, both for entering and exiting the station. At MRT stations, NSmen have to physically approach station staff, who will then open the gantry for them to pass through.

If participation is enthusiastic, the potential logistical nightmare is obvious. How will there be adequate staff at each station at any given point in time to deal with the many requests from NSmen? We will end up with frustrated uniformed men stuck behind long queues. 

Given the advent of the warmer months and the thickness of the uniforms, the frustration can only get worse.  Many NSmen may foresee the immense hassle and choose not to take part in the scheme.

It would then likely lead to lukewarm participation, throwing into doubt the sincerity behind the initiative. For effective execution, SMRT could consider reserving at least two gantries at each station for the NSmen’s entry and exit respectively; only a small handful of station staff will be needed to perform quick inspections and ensure that only properly attired individuals pass through the gantries.

Alternatively, SMRT could consider simply having a free travel day for everyone, which is rather appropriate in view of the reach of NS.

Even though not everyone in Singapore serves NS, the benefits are extended to everyone residing within the nation, regardless of gender or nationality.

Wearing a No.4 in public comes with a certain weight of responsibility. Muddy boots are a no-no, you can’t indulge in the basic vices such as chewing gum, smoke or drink alcohol. If a baby in the train is having cyanosis, bystanders look to you to save the day. If you take a seat and stare at your phone, some idiot will take a photo and complain about it on Facebook. God knows what would happen if you are found sitting down on the MRT floor – Someone may file a police report.

If you dress like a chow recruit on the train, passengers will instinctively run and hide, assuming that you stink after a day’s jungle training. In fear of contaminating the seats, you stand for the rest of your arduous journey from Tuas Link to goddamn Pasir Ris. Serving the nation forever alone.

Given the level of mental and physical suffering expected of a man in uniform, would anyone in their right mind don the No. 4 JUST for one day’s worth of free rides? Or pose as an imposter if they’re not actually NSmen? What’s the worst that could happen if you’re a non-NSman borrowing your buddy’s uniform for a free ride? You, *gasp* pay the fare, that’s what.

So yes, if you think about it, why reserve just one day (June 30) for NSmen to get unlimited free public transport if they wear uniform? Let’s salute our everyday heroes and give it to them FOC – or at least discounted rates – all day EVERY DAY, whether in uniform or in T-shirt and sandals. After all, they are practically volunteer train/bus marshals. If a fight breaks out between uncles over a priority seat, they’ll be there to intervene. If someone faints, they’ll attend to the victim. If some China national leaves a suspicious luggage near the toilet, they’ll tackle him to the ground with an anaconda chokehold. In fact, they are already talks of them being activated during a train breakdown to control crowds. I mean, you could stop paying THIS guy for his superhero services already.

Forget about reserved gantries. NS50 committee, if you’re serious about recognising our NSmen, please issue a special access EZlink cum credit card instead of crappy vouchers. Give the poor sod below something to look forward to after 2 shitty years of NS.

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