Sat, Jul 11, 2009 - Page 8 News List

JOHNNY NEIHU’S MAILBAG

A Brown Line nightmare

Dear Johnny,

I was glad you published an article about the Neihu Line (“Reclaim the maimland and the MRT,” July 4, page 8). But where should I start my sad saga?

Should I discuss the people who helped my stroller onto the cart, the rudeness of the crowd or the promises of Taipei’s mayor?

Ah, hell. Might as well blast him first.

Unfortunately, my wife, son and I decided to try the new line on inauguration day [What were you thinking?? — Johnny]. Let me put it this way. It was the worst experience I’ve ever had on any rail, bus or other system.

The mayor says the government will fix those “little” problems, but I’m sorry … they were not small problems if you are disabled or have kids.

I think we rode at least 20 elevators, though, to be fair, the city is keeping safety in mind by keeping strollers off escalators.

On our way to Jiannan Road Station, we saw a long line forming … because Taiwanese have to be the first to try everything!

So, we decided to go the other way, toward Da-an Station, and surprisingly it was not as packed. Luckily, we got seats all the way.

But the way back wasn’t so easy.

When you have a baby that is hungry, you have two choices: (a) you feed the kid, or (b) you let the kid wail. We didn’t want to inconvenience everyone on the train, so we started feeding him on the platform.

Then the train came, but the bottle was half finished. What could we do? We decided we’d try to board the train and continue feeding the baby inside.

Well, it almost turned into an accident, because the “solution” to crowded spaces is to hire staff to shove. Shove wheelchairs into passengers and shove strollers any which way you can.

I’m not kidding, there are always two or three staff who, when they hear the beeping of the doors, grab anything that’s in the way and push it. You can imagine how passengers might feel having objects as large as strollers and wheelchairs bumping into them.

One of these “pushers” tried to shove my stroller into a metal pole; seconds before the door closed I saw three pairs of hands grab the stroller, shift its position and throw it in. Luckily I was tucked right next to it, but with no breathing space … and a baby that needed more food. People around us seemed appalled that we had to feed our four-month-old baby while standing. They were also shocked at how we had been shoved into the carriage.

To put the icing on the cake, when we got to the Blue Line the crowd decided that it wasn’t so shocked at our situation, and literally everyone stampeded out of there.

Luckily, by that time, we had put the baby back in the stroller.

To my fellow passengers: This is what you are supposed to do at a rock concert!

If the Brown Line is good for anything, it is to train Taiwanese how to mosh. And with Linkin Park coming to town, I guess riding the MRT is good practice.

HARRY ADAMOPOULOS

Taipei

Johnny replies: I’m in the neighborhood, of course, so I did what any sensible old person would do and waited a couple of days before sampling the new service.

The most interesting thing about the new carriages is that you can’t sit anywhere and face forward without looking a complete stranger in the eye.

As a result, people up and down the carriages either stare at the floor or put their necks in uncomfortable positions to avoid eye contact.

I’m beginning to think that the designers of the carriages received cash from some social psychologists to set up long-term experiments on crowd behavior. Smile, commuter, you’re on candid camera.

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