The clock was ticking.
As the long arm struck 6pm, Serangoon train station (MRT as we know it here in Singapore) was flooded.
FLOODED WITH A SEA OF PEOPLE.
I descended down the escalator into a blur of limbs and mostly black haired heads, moving quickly in all different directions.
Some were coming, most were going. Some were students, uniforms messily untucked, eagerly setting off for a Friday night feast and shopping. Majority were adults wrapped in tight, restrictive A-line work skirts and dress pants with takeaway plastics swinging in hand, relieved to finally meet the restful end of yet another mundane work week.
I walked- no, weaved, slid and dodged as I made my way down the long corridor to access the North East line.
The station, which is usually quiet during the day time, now pulsated with a type of rush- sort of like when you take a hose that’s calmly flowing water and squeeze a part of the small opening, suddenly increasing pressure and force.
I scuttled along, somewhat overwhelmed and frazzled. Everyone seemed to move in sync with each other, filling what little space there was left efficiently. People moved at quick speeds, but their trajectories never crossed; no one crashed clumsily into each other, tripped, or found themselves in those awkward moments when the paths of two strangers intersect and they both wrongly anticipate each other’s movements.
Everyone seemed to already have their train cards ready in hand or easily accessed, and people entered and exited the barriered train gates in an undisrupted flow- all until I arrived, clumsily fumbling and tossing in an effort to find my train ticket. People behind me sighed, showing slight annoyance at the disturbance of their journey (i’m sorry).
The trains were no better. People were stuffed and squeezed into every carriage, desperately trying to take up as little space as possible.
“Bags on the floor makes space for more” read a colorful decal that I was just barely able to catch a glimpse of above the heads of the people I found myself stuffed in between.
The train carriage became an overfilled sardine can, and it certainly wasnt the best feeling being one out of what felt like a million fish in it.
And this is how to truly experience how populated this tiny little red dot has really become (and also how to discover that you suffer from low key claustrophobia after all).
I don’t remember it being like that when I was a smol kiddo living here back in 2007.
It was so spacious back then that I could still dangle from the little handles suspended along the metal bars of the carriage, allowing the momentum of the ride to swing me back and forth.
It really amazes me how such a tiny little island with its compact infrastructure can house such a large (and veeery slowly growing) population without already breaking down into dysfunction and chaos.
(I have no pictures here due to spatial and social constraints whilst being on the train- while it might be a little creepy pointing a phone camera at so many random people, it was also virtually physically impossible to do so being squished into a corner).