A pedestrian bumps into another pedestrian who is blocking the pavement.
The pedestrian gets a wet foot from a loose paving stone and clambers over bags of rubbish on the way to the Métro.
The same person takes the Métro, and when leaving the train at Gare du Midi he knocks into a passenger trying to board before he leaves the train.
He’s late for his train, and then when ascending the escalators from the Métro to the concourse other people are blocking the escalators. He asks them to move, he’s met with a ‘je m’en fous’ shrug and a snide comment, and a raging, verbal argument ensues.
By this point he’s so mad he shouts at an employee of the STIB, who hits him.
OK, this is not a true story. But all of the pieces of this I have seen (sometimes regularly) over the years I lived in Brussels, and all of this was brought to stark attention this week when a Brussels Métro, Tram and Bus strike in Brussels was provoked by… a Métro driver punching a customer. Seriously. Le Soir in French here, Google translation here.
But what is actually at stake here?
Brussels is a city where everyday anger is all too prevalent – in the public spaces, between customers and owners of enterprises, between car drivers and pedestrians, and in the public transport. There’s also an annoying level of street crime. I’m aware that what I’m writing here is an intuition, but I sure have heard less raging in 6 months in London than I did when I lived in Brussels, and I know others feel the same.
So how do you solve this? I’m far from convinced that the British (or anyone else) are inherently less rage-prone. But – just to take the London Underground as an example – the rules are relentlessly repeated, over and over, until they eventually become social norms. “Let passengers off the train first”, “Move down inside the cars”, “Stand on the right” (on escalators). Even tourists very soon get the message on the latter, and everything runs more smoothly, for everyone. Isn’t it about time that Brussels started to do some of this – on the STIB network at the very least – and started to enforce some more civilised behaviour?
October 2, 2009 via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution