Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Stay Off The Tracks? Well, DUH...

City people almost everywhere can often be distracted, oblivious to their surroundings or just plain dumb. Sometimes a combination. Natives and visitors in the Bangkok Transit System (BTS) stations are a good example. Another are people who exit the escalators in Thailand and just stop to check their phone while a half-dozen people shout while smashing together behind them, but let's save that for another day.

Most of the people you encounter there are either behind schedule and looking to join in on a crush to board - usually staring at their cell phones - or idly waiting for the next train to arrive and either walking around the platform or leaning somewhere, but still often playing with their phone. When I look at what locals are doing it seems they're more often changing whatever it is coming through their wired ear buds than texting, and thankfully there aren't many actual phone conversations, because most folks tend to speak loud enough for the person they're calling to hear them without the phone. I've never figured that one out, but that "what I'm saying needs to be broadcast" is all too often true in restaurants, as well.

Part of their obliviousness is often demonstrated by their proximity to the open pit that contains the train tracks, including the high voltage one. Despite the yellow lines and warning tiles with raised bumps for a tactile alert they still earn a blast on the whistle from a station guard.

There's usually at least one guard on either side of the track pit, keeping an eye out for those not using their own eyes. Whistles at the ready they're prepared to send a warning blast at any moment, and if you're withing, say, 10 feet it can make your ears ring for a few minutes afterwards - and that's after you've jumped a foot off the ground.

Oh, sure... he's smiling now, but that whistle he carries can be near-lethal!

Now, I admit I've received one of these warnings myself on one of my first visits to the Land of Smiles. I'd been leaning a bit too far toward "the void" to take a picture, and heard the whistle from a painless distance at the opposite end of the station. Realizing it had been directed at me I sheepishly moved back, smiled and waved a "thank you" to the guard, but at least I was aware of where I was standing and knew not to take another two steps to my right, but I understand that he didn't and was probably sighing "Oh, good grief... another fool tourist!"

At a couple of spots you'll see actual metal and glass barricades; gates designed to stay closed and only open when the doors of a train in the station open, but I didn't notice them in use during my last visit. I'd guess they'd help those nearest the edge from being accidentally pushed onto the tracks by a crush of folks behind them during peak transit hours.

Protective (but idle) gates at the Siam station

Not much of a profound thought for today, because your risks on the BTS are FAR less than any transportation (including walking) at street level, but I was talking with someone about it yesterday and thought I'd pass it along as a suggestion to be aware when you're otherwise tempted to be distracted in potentially hazardous situations.

My guess is the "penalty" is monetary, but it could also mean being knocked from the tracks three stories down to street level by high voltage!

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