In Case of Emergency…

In this post I mentioned the set of emergency instructions I noticed on a Taiwanese train, which were as follows:

1) Press Button to sound the alarm and alert the authorities (actually, the first step of every set of emergency instructions anywhere in Taiwan is “Press Button”, which I found very funny).
2) If an object is blocking the train tracks, passengers should get out of the train and help clear the tracks.
3) Passengers outside of the train should take great care to not get hit by another train.

And I made some comments about how nothing like these instructions would ever, ever appear in America (primarily because the assumption of competence and responsibility in the adult train passengers is implicit in the instructions). In a semi-related note, I just came across this article:

http://au.ibtimes.com/articles/494007/20130724/japanese-commuters-unite-tilting-train-rescue-trapped.htm#.Ufq40NI3v4Q

The summary, in Tokyo a woman somehow fell onto the train tracks and became trapped under a train car. The station agent (someone, clearly, must have pressed the emergency button.. always step #1) held the train while the passengers collectively rocked the train car over to the side to make a space large enough to allow the woman to be rescued. The train then left the platform only having been delayed 8 minutes. Granted, this is Japan and not Taiwan, but they must have the same set of emergency instructions as shown above.

Now… could the above have happened in America? I’m actually confident that yes, it actually could have happened. However, I’m also cynically confident that post-incident, the lady that fell would sue somebody over platform gaps, slick surfaces, inadequate warning sings, improper safety procedures, psychological trauma resulting from the incident, etc. Also, it’s likely inevitable that one of the passengers who helped move the train would also sue somebody for causing, or re-aggravating, a back/wrist injury. The end result of which would be some kind of monetary settlement, a forced re-examination of the train safety regulations and emergency instructions, and the posting of the new “revised” emergency instructions exhorting everybody to do absolutely nothing in case of an emergency (except, of course, for waiting for the authorities to come to the rescue). Sad yes..? But you all know that’s what would happen. Feel free to insert your own mental commentary on the situation and what it all might mean.

Now, I had a 10-hour, overnight layover in Tokyo in June. I decided, rather than just sit in the airport all night, to take the train into town for dinner. I then caught the last train (circa midnight) back to the airport and slept on an airport bench for a bit before my morning flight (the train schedule was such that my original plan of staying out all night and taking the first train back was unfeasible because I couldn’t get to the airport in time for my flight). The one thing I noticed was drunk businessmen. They were everywhere, literally… and this was a Tuesday night (the only place I’ve ever seen something similar was London). On the train on the way back to the airport (filled with drunken businessmen), at one stop, the door opened to reveal this sign:

JapanApparently, other people have noticed this phenomenon as well… so much so that they need a warning sign in the train stations to exhort people to look out for drunken businessmen that might get hit by a train. Again, I’ll leave it up to you to make any possible connections about how the same society can simultaneously produce the above story and need the above warning sign.

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