Time to review “chope” culture

The daughter of the older man at the center of the Toa Payoh hawker center incident has spoken. In an impassioned post, she talked about how her dad had kept quiet and not spoken about it at all. He thinks that the police wouldn’t bother and that there would be insufficient proof to get justice.

She also mentioned very briefly about the practice of reserving seats – that seatings are first come, first serve. She didn’t want to get into that argument because presumably it would derail the objective of her post.

From the comments that surface, we begin to see that not every Singaporean is supportive of this habit of seat reservation. Some have asked for laws to ban it. Many others say it is behaviour that reeks of entitlement.

I say the habit of “chope-ing” seats is is rude, inconsiderate and selfish.

“But what’s wrong with it? It’s effective!”, you may argue. I must say that this reason is very persuasive, but let us not be deceived. It is effective only for you and you only. It is selfish.

The seats are put there for the benefit of all, not for anyone person to claim as their personal own. Everyone now comes with an object to reserve a seat, it is now impossible to find a place anymore.

With your tissue in place, you can take an eternity to go and stand in a mile long queue waiting for your favourite noodles to be cooked. In that time, someone could have ordered food, sat down, eat it and leave. Meanwhile your tissue is occupying a seat that someone else could have used and free up.

We also forget that this is a hawker center – a place of communal eating. It is not restaurant or a cafe. There is no reservation system in place. 

Oh and from the incident, I’ve also learnt that there are various meanings to the objects that you leave. A tissue is a seat for one. A bag across the table is a seat for two. And in the case of this Toa Payoh incident, an umbrella means the entire table is reserved – even if just two people were using it.

And even if it is just one tissue pack, what does it mean? I’ve faced situations when they tell me these two tissue packs are to reserve a table of four. And I need just one seat, what does it mean? I can’t sit there?

How on earth is anyone going to understand these things, and why should they? First come, first served, first to sit, first to eat is the convention that everyone universally understands – why are we so haughty to think that an umbrella reserves the right for you to occupy the entire table?

Once again, the habit of chope-ing seats is rude, inconsiderate and selfish. It is one of those old habits that have managed to stick around, because hey… it wasn’t too long ago we were a backward nation with backward practices. It reeks of entitlement – just like how a spoilt kid claims that his toys are his and won’t share them.

Hawker centers are public places, some of us need to re-learn how to use them.



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