Yesterday morning, I accompanied an acquaintance of mine to one of POSB’s branches. She wanted to withdraw some money from the automated teller machine (ATM).

There were two ATMs outside the bank but there was only one single queue with about 7 people. Both ATMs were operational. So we found it strange there was only one queue.

My acquaintance went and stood at the other ATM waiting for her turn when a woman from the single queue looked at her with a scowling face and asked my acquaintance whether she noticed there was a queue. My acquaintance looked at the woman, who looked to be in her 30s and dressed quite professionally in office attire, and told her there are two separate ATMs to serve people and common sense dictates there can be two separate queues. Like checkout counters at supermarkets. The woman from the single queue showed her displeasure at this reply with a face that could sink any ship but she didn’t utter a word. Like I said, her face said it all. The others in that single queue obviously had the same feelings as the woman ‘cos their faces were also contorted with unhappiness. My acquaintance continued to stand her ground, literally, and finished her transaction when it was her turn.

I was standing by the side and watching this drama unfold. I had a Dick Cheney-like half-smile on my face and shaking my head at the woman & the people who were queuing with her in the single queue. Somebody once told me a long time ago that common sense wasn’t common anymore. This was such a small thing and didn’t need any leap of logic or quantum theory to be understood: There are two machines for two separate queues so more people can do their transactions thereby cutting down waiting time. Now how hard could that be!!!

Common sense and friendliness gets lost when people have a herd mentality . As was illustrated by the 6 other individuals in the single queue with the woman. None of them seemed to acknowledge the logic in my acquaintance’s argument as their reactions clearly showed they agreed with the woman in their queue. Sheesh!!!

This herd mentality can also be witnessed in a larger scale at our MRT stations. When the train arrives, the stampede of people is so pathetic that those who need to get off the train have to fight their way out!! And this is peacetime for godsakes!!

In fact, such a mentality can be observed in almost any situation with any number of people in any number of places here. I realise we’re a very small country with about 4.4 million people living in a pressure-cooker environment but that doesn’t mean we have to behave like wild animals.