Subway Vigilante


It feels a bit weird to admit this, but I actually prefer taking the bus over the MTR — Hong Kong’s clean, efficient metro system — because it keeps me sane. The bus might take twice as long, but at least I’m not shoved aside by people rushing into the trains at stops, or squished into a corner by the rush hour masses.

Every time I ride the MTR, I witness some kind of egregious behaviour that I wish I could punish with a slap across the face or a kick to the groin. I’m obviously not alone, because Mark Tjhung, an editor at the local edition of Time Out magazine, has fulfilled my daily dream: he became a subway vigilante. In a video that accompanies a column about rude behaviour on the MTR, Tjhung poses as an officer of the “MTR Police” and gives out tickets for infractions he sees while riding the trains (along with a yellow card, soccer-style, just for kicks).

Unfortunately, Tjhung is mistaken for a real MTR employee, and his first order of business is to deal with a pile of vomit somebody has left on the platform. The video is also somewhat disappointing — we get to vicariously chastise a kid who sits blithely in front of the hobbled old lady standing in front of him, and smirk as Tjhung gives a ticket to a teenager drinking bubble tea on the train, but we don’t have the satisfaction of seeing justice brought to the absolute worst human beings on the MTR: the door-rushers.

Still, it’s nice to see Tjhung pick up the slack for frustratingly passive MTR employees, who lack the chutzpah of subway conductors in London or New York, where you’ll get screamed at if you’re doing something wrong. (Toronto, in a typically Canadian fashion, has passive-aggressive subway conductors: “If you keep playing with the doors, this train isn’t going anywhere.”) And even if riding the MTR can be a frustrating lesson in human unkindness, we can be glad that our subway vigilantes are more like Mark Tjhung and less like Bernie Goetz.

This entry was written by Christopher DeWolf , posted on Wednesday September 01 2010at 10:09 am , filed under Asia Pacific, Interior Space, Transportation and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

One Response to “Subway Vigilante”

  • C. Szabla says:

    Of course, the occasional shriek of a New York subway conductor will only be meted out for truly serious offenses (I’ve never heard of the ban on eating and drinking being enforced). The most fearsome transit police I’ve encountered were (maybe predictably) in Berlin, where the honor system means random inspections from the Fahrkartenkontrolleure (nicknamed Kontis), who burst into U-Bahn cars, demand to see everyone’s ticket, and haul free riders off at the next station to withdraw a hefty fine from the nearest ATM. (They seem even more intimidating compared to their depiction on warning videos that play on platforms, which depict them as cute Lego people.)

    I suspect there would be a lot more subway vigilantism if there weren’t overriding rules of subway etiquette – no looking others in the eye, for example, let alone speaking to them, even if being practically molested during crowded rush-hour trips – and, above all, treating others with sympathy when they’re stuck in a situation (e.g. carrying oversized baggage) that everyone has dealt with before. After all, who among us hasn’t been a door-rusher at some point?