Today is a total deviation from the hectic schedule of work because I spent the entire day running errands for the household instead.
And there, I slipped. I mentioned work, didn’t I?
I’m — again — doing the workaday grind five days a week, part of the labor pool, one of the bazillion commuters standing on the train station platform, drenched in sweat while waiting for the boxcar to carry me to my destination.
If the station is so crammed with commuters that one cannot drop a pin in the middle of the throng, I skip the overpopulated cattlecars and ride the bus.
A bus ride in the metro is actually an exotic activity in itself — a unique flavor that the Department of Tourism should not miss in exploiting as another sport that tourists must experience firsthand while vacationing in this here tropical paradise of ours. CamSur has its wakeboarding; let Metro Manila have its runningboarding on a Safeway Transit line.
Here is the main perk: For the minimum fee of ten pesos, experience the adrenaline rush brought about by hanging on for dear life while bus drivers – eyes glazed over from staying on the road too long — weave through the horrendous rush hour traffic jam at an average speed close to that required by a Boeing747 for takeoff. There are no safety harnesses. One must learn to hold on (i.e., deathgrip) to anything inside the bus that has the semblance of sturdiness.
Here are the additional exciting bonuses:
Expect near-collisions every half second or so with other buses also running at liftoff speeds or with smaller cars driven by men and women who may be moonlighting that they are on the last lap of an F150 run.
Also, experience how the suicidal driver craftily maneuvers the mammoth box to the curbside to let passengers off at their stops (passengers getting off will either be muttering profanities or thanking their respective deities that they are still alive).
The maneuver requires punch-drunk talent, from the looks of things. It usually involves a quick glance at the side mirror to check if the other bus that he is racing with is gaining on him and then, seeing that it is, the Formula One Racer/Driver then steps on the gas pedal to reach a speed of around 185 kmph and, at the same time, yanks the wheel to make a 56.9-degree angle turn towards the curb and humanity and then, just before your heart leaps out of your throat to go through the motions of its own cardiac arrest on the bus’ sticky floor, the maniacal driver steps hard on the brake pedal just micromillimeters away from the throng of people waiting for specific buses that will take them to their (Final) Destination(s).
Then the bus conductor swaggers out of the bus and yells gibberish that would pass for a foreign language at the assembled commuters on the sidewalk. If, after a minute of speaking in tongues the conductor failed to attract more passengers to experience the joys of riding the bus, he/she gets back on the bus, raps on one of the metal posts to signal the driver to get on with the show, and the whole joyous experience of seeing your entire life flash before your very eyes in the span of five minutes gets repeated.
This cycle of seeing a preview of your entire life flash before your eyes, then experiencing near heart attacks, and then getting the hang of flying through the metro at Mach 3 velocities will last until you choose to get off from the Safeway bus (a really funny and ironic way to name a public transport line, if I may say so myself) at any of the approved bus stops by the MMDA (a Gestapo version of traffic enforcers and city sidewalk cleaners).
For most who manage to get to their destinations unscathed but shaken would consider that they had been given a second lease on life. Others convert to another religion after the experience. Others who do not have time for church would just give all the contents of their wallets to the first panhandler they encounter on the street.
I get off at a bus stop in front of a Pizza Hut outlet. Once the adrenaline wears off, I run my hand through my hair and smoothen the front of my clothes. I take out most of the bills from my wallet and drop them in a waiting tin can at the feet of a street musician standing just outside Pizza Hut.
Then I prepare my mind for work, near-death experience already shelved at the back of my mind… for the time being.
I tell my feet to walk towards the looming building that bears the name of the company where I work. They do so but grudgingly.
About work… I’m still too rattled to talk about it. I’ll describe it on a later post.