I wrote this in an earlier post:
Small example: I hate traveling back during peak hour. No matter how much noise I make, the transport companies aren’t going to fix things in the short term. So I make my own plans to ensure that my own commuting experience is a pleasant one.
Someone asked me to elaborate. I’ll try. But let’s temper the expectations – what I’m sharing isn’t new. Lots of people have been doing it. It is more of a change of my own thinking to help make life just a wee bit happier for me.
The Singapore Public Transport problem is really simple. It can be roughly summed up below:
Public Transport Experience = k(Resources(t) – Consumers(t)) where k is a positive coefficient and t is time.
In Singapore’s case, it is evident that at certain times of the day, the public transport experience is negative because the number of consumers stretch the resources to, and sometimes pass, its limits.
I can’t control the resources part of the equation. What I can do, is control the consumers part. I can also increase k.
So how do I do it?
To improve k.
1. I subscribe to mailing lists. I do this so that my BlackBerry will always have something interesting to read. Surfing the net when commuting is a terrible experience. Reading email which gets loaded throughout the day isn’t.
Some people read books, listen to music, play games or watch videos on their portable players. I read email from mailing lists I have selected with care.
2. I go in with the mindset I’m not going to try to get a seat no matter how tired I am. I take it as a given that the default is standing. I take it as a default that I’m going to be squeezed like a sardine. If there is a seat, I resist going to sit on it even if no one seems interested to have a sit.
I do the above to train myself to manage my expectations on the public transport experience. Once I can lower my expectations, then whatever shit happens, well, I don’t get upset thus my k-coefficient is maintained.
The problem is not the level of your experience. The problem is the gap between the level of your experience and the expectations for that experience.
I know I know…self deception.
I also started observing at the various stations I usually board the train which cars are the one that have the least among of people. I think people are predictable and thus the distribution of people being squeezed into cabins do follow a pattern.
Some people might say that for a really packed train, there is no difference between cabins. I beg to differ. However, these observations are totally unscientific and this might just be another case of a self-deceptive coping mechanism.
I control the time I take the public transport.
I realized the problem with t is this – I suspect most people do not like to go to work early or leave work late. I’ve been thinking about this and I realized it is a mindset thing. People see the office as this terrible place that must be escaped. If the work you do is something you enjoy, then I think this issue is slightly mitigated, so first rule – get a job which allows you to do work you actually love.
For going to work, I start observing at which time leaving the house allows me to minimize bus waiting time and overall transport time. Usually this means you get to the office real early or real late. I started bringing my home laptop so I could do my own stuff in the office if I got there really early. I also started pushing the boundaries of how late I could actually get to work before the higher management actually said something; once I knew the actual markers, I planned accordingly.
Fortunately, my dad recently changed his morning driving route so now on most days I get a ride to the MRT.
Anyway, I used to think once office hours were over, the office was a place that needed to be escaped. I think that’s why you see people rushing off all at the same time once the standard hours are over. So I started changing the way I view my office. It becomes a base for me to live a life. I plan non-work related stuff to do in the office. I bring a book that I can read in the office. I searched out for places around my office that I can explore or just hang out by myself.
Of course, not everyone has the, what I consider, good fortune to be working in the city. Plus a good deal of people do not have the luxury of going back later because of kids or other family commitments.
Also, there might be times you have to rush off somewhere because of other plans. Besides trying to make all my plans in the city, what I do is this – I increased my walking range.
I’ve been walking from Shenton Way to Orchard Road, River Valley, Suntec City. Just yesterday, I walked from Lau Pa Sat to the National Library to return the books then walked to Sim Lim Square to take a bus home.
I’ve also started walking home from Newton MRT to my place. The trick I learned is to plan to walk home before you hit the bus stop. The reason is that when you already planned to walk home, the experience is much better than waiting for the bus then deciding to walk home because the bus is just taking so damn bloody long to arrive.
I’ve also started researching what sort of bike to buy once I move house and the possibility of cycling to work from the new place. I also started checking out my floor and realized the handicap toilet has shower facilities which I can use when I, hopefully, start cycling to work.
The thing is, we are so used to cars, buses and MRT that we forgot that these ways of traveling was never always a given. I still can remember the stories my elders would tell me about how they would walk home from school just to save a little bit of money. We could learn from that, not so much to save money, but to find a different way to get around in an urban environment.