One MRT, two completely different worlds.

I usually board the first few cars of the MRT, reserved for females, senior citizens, physically challenged folks, and, although the sign doesn’t say it, the police. I’m always intrigued by the dynamics, the powerplay, the interaction between strangers, the emotional tension, the adrenaline rush, the perennial chatter, the plethora of handbags-turned-weapons.

So when, one morning, I had to absolutely board the free-for-all part of the train, I dreaded it. I thought I’d get squished in sharp elbows and brick shoulders, that my nose would be assailed by odors I’m not familiar with. And while the odor part turned out to be true, the rest of my assumptions were proven wrong.

I discovered that an MRT car full of men is a quiet MRT car. No jostling, no constant shuffling, no instinctive flipping of hair. No gossiping, no ranting, no texting or calling. Just catatonic coexistence.

It was a pleasant change from my usual morning rush hour experience. And contrary to popular belief, some men do give their seats up for women. I was prepared to stand the entire ride like the rest of them, but I was offered a seat by guys on each of the two occasions that I entered their world.

I thanked them, too, and made sure they heard me say it sincerely. Sometimes, receiving unexpected kindness is so embarrassing that we forget our manners or mumble; it’s not because we are ungracious–only foolish and jaded.

So men, on behalf of all the women who got tongue-tied and wordlessly took the seat you sacrificed, I’d like to say a hearty “Salamat!” You really made their–our–day by your act of goodness; we just didn’t know how to express it and defaulted, mistakenly, to silence.

And ladies, keep an eye out: gentlemen are still randomly sprinkled all over Metro Manila. Make sure you always bring a ready smile and a kind word of thanks, in case you spot one.

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