Civility begets civility

It saddened me to read the letter by a visitor to Singapore on our bad habits of "choping" (reserving) seats and not clearing our trays at food centres (Don't give incentives to get people to do what is right, by Mr Edward Kitlertsirivatana; Feb 9).

The writer is correct in saying that we should not give incentives to get people to do what is morally right.

Like the writer, I had a similar experience recently at a Chinatown food complex.

A table was occupied by two office workers - a man and a woman. I got the usual reply when I tried to sit:"The table is occupied". I brushed aside their response and sat down.

When my friend showed up, we moved to a bigger table. Again, two people who were seated at that table told us the seats were taken.

We sat down anyway and said we would move when their co-workers showed up. But no one did, even after we had finished our coffee.

No matter how proudly we claim to be cultured and civilised, we are really not there yet and, I will add, we have a long way to go.

Our excuse for choping seats is that it is a cultural practice.

How can we accept a practice which allows an elderly person to walk around with a bowl of hot food and deny him a seat?

In 1980, when I was in the Australian capital of Canberra, I checked into a hostel.

They had a huge common bathroom at the end of the corridor and rows of sinks for shaving, brushing teeth and washing faces.

A notice was pinned above the sink which read: Do you find this place clean? The last user kept it clean for you. Likewise, please keep it clean for the next user.

I have not forgotten this reminder till this day.

From then on, I have made sure that I clean up after myself after a meal and return my tray.

Ronald Lee Yew Kee