8/11/2018
Power dressing

This essay would not exist if I wasn't a non-sexual masochist.

I could have chosen an easier commute. I know the shuttle I take to Makati does not stop at Buendia, or at least the part of Buendia I have to be in: the side near the intersection with EDSA, the side that's close enough to the central business district, yet far enough to be inconvenient. Yes, there is a point in me going down the corner of Dela Rosa and Paseo de Roxas: I haven't had breakfast, and it's better to eat when you're there rather than eat home and later find yourself queuing for an hour for your ride. (For anyone reading this outside of the Philippines, no, scheduled buses aren't really a thing here, and so is a proper public transport system.)

But then, once I've had my bagel BELT and double double, I could have chosen to hail a cab to my ultimate destination. Or, I could have stayed in the shuttle all the way through, go down near Makati Medical, and take a jeep the rest of the way. No. I'm a bit stingy. I'm also convinced I need to have some sort of exercise. So, instead, I walk, from the old Insular Life building at the intersection of Paseo and Ayala, all the way to just near the intersection of Buendia (technically Gil Puyat, but you only use that name in business cards) and EDSA. It's a good twenty-minute walk, including the times when you can't cross the street due to the red man. Me knowing that I sweat easily is not at all a deterrent, not even the fact that I have to look prim and proper for a day-long meeting with career bureaucrats. Yes, I will stink. Yes, I will still walk.

That means I feel extra lowly about myself despite the decisions I made thinking it's for the best. Tuesday morning along Paseo de Roxas - a street dotted with the main offices of banks, insurance companies and anything else that earns a lot of money - means all you see are people who look the part. Salarymen and salarywomen - I write this with a bit of Japanese idol culture hangover - dressed smartly, heads up in confidence, hair slickly made (or fresh from a shower, because Manila is Manila) briefcases and backpacks snugly fitting the appropriate part of the body. It's fascinating how there are a lot of backpacks. I wouldn't have imagined it as an essential element of power dressing, but then it can get flooded at any time and you will have to easily switch to disaster management mode. Whether a natural apocalypse or a financial one rears its ugly head, I will have everything I need. This day is mine to seize.

I have a slightly tattered briefcase, bought in Hong Kong at a discount when my laptop backpack - really, a sporty backpack I used for my laptop - failed me midflight. It has notebooks, accessories, papers, BB cream (for men, still Korean) and an umbrella. It has to be worth the twelve escalators I took through a crowded department store apparently on sale. That means my briefcase, which I carry on my shoulder, is heavy.

I also think I'm walking like a duck. I want to stride confidently, but I cannot keep up for twenty minutes, and also, I'm past the proper sidewalks now, having entered more, err, uneven yet paved terrain. I know Philippine cities aren't walkable unless some real estate developer can charge exorbitantly for the privilege. Why didn't I take a cab again?

Sweaty, short of breath and half an hour early for my appointment, I delude myself into thinking my belly as shrunk a bit. It could be my business-y, less powerful wardrobe. Vertical stripes make you look thinner and taller, but Niko, you're sweaty and stinky - and you're meeting an assistant secretary. You expect to make a good impression with that?

At least the meeting room is airconditioned, and lunch is free.

Also, it was a productive meeting. Few things are better than knowing you weren't somewhere doing nothing, that you may have faked your expertise enough to have gotten your thoughts through to the right people convincingly. "Advisory committee is a more appropriate term." This is when I can call myself a marketing person.

But then you realize you can be stupid, still. Why don't I just take a cab? It's five in the afternoon and you're tired. Sure you were seated most of the time, but constant talking takes a toll: you feel your throat is dry and you're out of breath. Do you still take that twenty-minute walk, although in this case it's now thirty minutes, since you're going all the way to Park Square to queue for your shuttle? Do I need to further stress that it's now raining hard outside? Do you really want to walk?

I have a coat jacket. Coat jackets do not have hoods. I have an umbrella - I told you, survival kit! - but it's not as if that will protect me from getting wet, not with the unpredictable wind and the many puddles settling alongside out unwalkable streets. At least it's not flooded and you aren't stranded. Still, your thirty-minute walk will be much longer now, because there is more to navigate. Now the skies are gloomy, the sidewalks are glistening, and all the umbrellas are up. As you walk, you see all the salarymen and salarywomen looking glum, tired, run down, worse for wear. The confident stride has been replaced by a stance that suggests a tug-of-war between waiting the rain out and going straight home. Late but dry, or wet but early? Why not live somewhere closer to work? Well, why are we working hard, keeping a brave face, only to realize, on a daily basis, that we're just being screwed out of our chances?

At least I felt like I fit in more with this crowd. But then, I wish I could've left earlier. The queue is long. Evening rush hour. This bag is heavy, and I badly need to lie down. It's been a long day. I have to do all of this again tomorrow.

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