Last Sunday at about 11.30am, by a stroke of luck, we got a parking lot in the basement carpark of the church we attend. Usually by this time, which is when mass starts, the carpark will be full and we’ll have to park at the public multi-storey carpark next door, where lots are designed for midgets. We have to put baby Alex in the car seat strapped on top of the stroller, so that he can nap comfortably. Naturally the elevator becomes our vertical mode of transport in a building.
As we were waiting for the elevator to go to the second level gallery, a family arrived and waited alongside us. I recognize this family with 2 little girls and grandma. The father told his daughters, ‘girls, please give way to baby.’ The little girls stood aside though they were curious about Alex. When the elevator door opened, my husband and I entered first, followed by them. As I’ve mentioned, I recognize them because of the gracious behavior of the father, which I had experienced previously. During that encounter I arrived at the elevator with Alex after them, and the father instructed the 2 girls to stand aside for us.
After mass was over, we proceeded to the elevator to go to the carpark. There’s only one elevator in this church and so it’s quite a wait. Standing at the other side of the elevator was a short and rotund Indian woman with her 2 kids, a boy about 8 years old and a girl about four. Just then, a Chinese old lady pushed forward with her grandson, and planted themselves right in front of the elevator door. When it opened, they and the Indian family rushed in as though there was a free buffet available inside. My husband and I were appalled and as we stepped in, another old lady also squeezed in after us.
I was pissed and said loudly to all, ‘excuse me, can you please give way to the baby stroller?’ My husband followed suit, ‘this lift is priority for the disabled and strollers. Those who are abled-bodies should take the stairs!’ The Indian woman retorted, ‘my husband took the stairs and I have to take my children down using the lift.’ (I’ve no idea what’s her logic. If her husband can take the stairs, surely she can do the same with the kids?)
Just then the door opened on the first level, the last woman who squeezed in said sheepishly before she stepped out, ‘sorry, I have leg pain.’ (My husband later remarked if she exercises, she would be fit enough to walk down the stairs.) As for that grandma and grandson duo, they scooted out as fast as their little legs could carry them in case we gave them a lecture. But my husband wasn’t finished with the matter, he turned to the Indian woman and told her, ‘you and your children are abled-bodies, you should be giving way to the the baby and not rushed into the lift.’ At which she argued, ‘I told my children to stand to one side in the lift.’ Then she targeted me and pointed out, ‘you should also have taken the stairs.’ I did consider that when I waited for the elevator and I didn’t, which I admit I should have. But two wrongs don’t make a right. Granted only the wheelchair sign is put up on the side of the elevator, it makes sense that a baby in a stroller or pram should also be accorded the same priority.
Last Monday, after Alex’s vaccination shot, we waited at the elevator outside the Polyclinic. A hunched-over old lady with an umbrella as a walking stick and an old man stood alongside us. When the elevator door opened, both of them signaled to us to go ahead. We were struck by their graciousness. Their exemplary behaviors put to shame those church-goers. We have seen enough unbelievable and disgraceful behaviors at the malls when abled-body people rushed to take the elevators, ignoring our stroller, or park their cars at lots indicated for family with stroller or pram despite not having any babies in tow, just because such lots are closest to the elevators. We accept that there’re bound to be inconsiderate and selfish behaviors in the general population. But we expect the church parishioners to be gracious in the house of God, especially on a Sunday after mass. Yet within an hour we see both gracious and disgraceful behaviors.
So a couple of days ago, I sent an email to the church secretariat regarding this incident, and requested the priests to issue a statement during mass to remind the parishioners that as Christians, they should be mindful of their behaviors. It’s a reminder to all of us to ask ourselves whether we practice what we preach.