6/11/2015
It's the government's fault why we are all so rude

Rainy found herself standing up inside the bus, one of two she has to take for her new job. A given, considering it's not yet nine in the morning, and rush hour is still speeding along. Yes, not-quite-pun intended. Or no.

Anyway, a seat frees up, and she makes her way to that seat, since she still has a long way to go. But someone beat her to it. A guy, she tells me.

As this is not an essay about the supposed death of the gentleman, I won't be talking about how he should've given way for my girlfriend. Besides, that isn't the kicker. The twist was what happened later. So he gets his ass on the seat. He looks at my girlfriend. He makes this satisfied, smug smile, the sort that says "ah, a seat" and "you will not have my seat, you bitch!"

No, this is not an essay about the supposed death of the gentleman. Don't ask me why I did not do anything. I couldn't. I wasn't there. She was texting me all this. I was already at the office, gathering my wits after a particularly tedious commute in which a man bore all his weight onto my right shoulder, something a coffee float could not solve.

And that got me thinking.

I drove a car to work today. Shaw Boulevard is a pain in the ass. Well, every road is. I'm referring, in this case, to the half-hearted rotonda leading to Barangay Kapitolyo on one side, and Capital Commons on another. All these cars going around and blocking everybody else's way make this a particularly tedious exercise in navigation. And right after that, an intersection with Meralco Avenue, where jeepneys suddenly pop up, without warning, and turn right (they can't turn left) to Shaw, blocking everybody else's way, again.

I was toddling through the innermost lane when a jeepney suddenly showed up beside me and turned to my lane. It didn't cut me. It was going to collide with me, that motherfucker. So, in anger, I hit my horn, and did not let go. It was a twenty-second beep. Maybe thirty. I never let go of the horn.

For good measure, I flipped at the jeepney. Nobody saw me do it.

I've been driving a lot lately, and I realize that I have flipped off on far too many cars just in the past few weeks alone. It's not something to be proud of, but there you go. Yes, the more time you spend on the roads, the more you see people who will just do anything to get to their destination earlier than everybody else.

Sure, you will eventually get used to them - in the resigned sort of way - but I'm not at that point yet. I've only been driving a few years, and not that frequently either, so I'm still at the point where it just pisses me off more. All these vehicles suddenly cutting, especially those damn motorcycles, all because you're apparently too slow and timid for the road. "Ang bagal mo, gago!" you imagine them yelling at you. "Kaya ka sinisingitan, eh! Gago!" So much for being a cautious driver.

Then again, how do you become a cautious driver when, while driving along EDSA, you suddenly see a bus speedily swerving towards your lane, a lane where buses are not allowed? I mean, this is the innermost lane! "But fuck you," this imaginary bus driver, surprisingly articulate in English, tells you in your head. "My lane!" And you have no choice but to hit on the brakes so hard you think you'll get thrown through the windshield and towards the pavement.

This did happen to me. Twice. The other time involved an SUV who suddenly changed lanes so fast I imagined my car flying off the Alabang viaduct's concrete barriers and landing, conveniently, at Asian Hospital. Only I'd be dead by then, I assume.

Yes, I know I'm likely exaggerating, but, again, I'm driving. I'm driving in Manila. I have that mindset.

And that's just me driving. What if I had no choice but to take public transportation? You have taxi drivers refusing to bring you to your destination. You have bus drivers squeezing as many passengers as possible so they can go past their boundary. You have jeepney drivers stopping outside designated spots (of which there are... none, actually) just to pick up more passengers, sometimes even blocking a whole road to do so. You have passengers cutting queues, pushing people, and when (uhh) push comes to shove, just secretly grabbing their wallets. If you were going to risk your life riding one of seven trains running in the MRT, you might as well get something extra, right?

I went to Singapore twice last year, and I remember chuckling at the information campaign in its train stations. It was about public courtesy, specifically proper behavior in train stations. To make it more dramatic, the terms they use is "graciousness" and "thoughtfulness". Give-Way Glenda is the thoughtfulness in you who queues and lets others alight first. Bag Down Benny is the thoughtfulness in you who puts his bag down so others have more room. It sounds ridiculous because, come to think of it, there is room in Singapore's trains. There is room everywhere. It's easy to get from point A to point B. Heck, you can even walk from point A to point B if you really want to.

Sure, there will be people who act against this norm. I remember seeing a photograph in one of their newspapers, taken by a concerned citizen, of a man who put his bags in the empty seat beside him. He was depriving other passengers of a seat, the outrage went. But that's the unusual, to the point of being trivial.

Or maybe it's trivial just to me, because I come from Manila, where getting around - whether in a car, a jeep, a bus or a train - is an endurance sport where nobody takes note of who's leading and who's trailing. Traffic here is terrible, made worse by inept infrastructure and planning that lacks continuity and foresight. You're frazzled before you could even reach the station. To hell with manners.

Perhaps it's the government's fault why we are all so rude.

And your responses...

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