Why won’t you ask me…
The Gold Cabin in Dubai Metro has lost all its gravitas.
December 19, 2012 8:47 by Muhammad Aldalou
The train to Jebel Ali will arrive at Jebel Ali Platform. The voice echoes through the station. Commuters rush towards the approaching train, with eyes focused ahead. Standing shoulder to shoulder, consciously nudging their way to make it through first. A swooshing sound as the doors automatically slide open. As always, I stand to the side letting those exiting leave first before I make my move in. Others charge in, nudging women, men and children out of the way. I shake my head in disappointment, on the inside.
On this rare occasion, a gold cabin attendant faces the open doors, as if to both greet commuters as well as check for their gold travel cards. Many whizz past her to either side, like the unwanted and unnoticed friend at a teenage party. She doesn’t pursue.
I walk more slowly, making eye contact with her as I step onto the train. She looks back, her mouth starts to open. My ears pick up the first syllable of ‘excuse’, before she closes her mouth again with trepidation and silently looks away. Ask me damn it, I think to myself. It’s your right to ask all of us whether or not we’re carrying gold cards. But she is too afraid to upset or offend anyone. That much is apparent to me.
The cabin is full. Not comfortably full, with cheery people and laughing babies. Rather, it is overly crowded and if the foggy breath marks on the windows are an indication of anything – it is uncomfortable. Why do I continue to pay extra day in and day out when all that was appealing to me about this cabin is now gone, I wonder to myself.
In fact, I wonder why everyone else does. I also rather worry that an RTA inspector should come along. I’ve seen that happen, not very often but I’ve seen it. It’s hardly ever a pretty sight, because it exposes a growing new trend among certain commuters. Those that carry both silver and gold cards; one of which is always empty. The silver is swiped, allowing access. Should the cabin attendant pluck up the courage to ask them to reveal it, they do. She never knows it’s empty because she doesn’t carry the magnetic card readers that official inspectors do.
When the inspectors do make their occasional appearance, the vibe in the cabin immediately changes. You hear shuffling and worried murmurs. Some confidently flash their cards and are comforted by the beeping sound, reaffirming their eligibility to be there. Others hand it over hesitantly, and wince at the sound of a more disturbing beep. A beep that indicates the card hasn’t been used for access. They put on their most befuddled face forward as if to say: “I am as shocked as you are.” Not a pretty sight.
The gold cabin has lost its appeal. Its initial attraction was – at the very least – the guarantee of a seat. A slightly more comfortable one but not by much. That appeal is long gone. If commuters wanted to stand in a humid cabin, merely inches away from each other and clinging onto bars they could do that in the rest of the train. If the RTA expects commuters to continue paying the daily gold rate, something needs to be done.