Saturday, October 07, 2006

Gods of the Streets, Streets of Goddamnits

THANKFULLY, the line for southbound cabs in SM Makati was short. A mere five minutes of waiting and I was at the front of the line. An FX pulled up next to us and the driver was offering to take two southbound passengers where they needed to go. I was going home to East Service Road, the family behind me was going to somewhere near the airport—it was never going to work out. They driver agreed anyway, and so did I (a momentary lapse of judgment).

As we turned towards Edsa, the driver was suddenly hit by some stroke of pragmatism. I live to the east of the expressway, the family sharing the ride with me lives to the west; it was going to be a hassle for everyone concerned and the driver would lose money taking opposite routes. He decided to take the family to where they wished (the “women and children first” concept was working to the family’s favor), leaving me out to dry. He apologetically dropped me off at the corner of Pasay Road and Edsa.

I walked down Pasay Road, where a bunch of foreigners were patrolling, scouting the various night clubs, and I hailed every cab that passed by, even the one’s with passengers (don’t ask me why). I think something like four cabs actually stopped; all four refused to take me home.

I then decided to walk towards Goldcrest opposite Glorietta. There I had a ton of competition in getting a cab. The consolation was that most of us were all being refused by cab driver after cab driver. I wasn’t alone in frustration.

Places like East Service Road, Pasay, Timog, and Pasig were unattractive to cab drivers when they knew that they could spend the entire Friday night taking passengers to various places within the Makati area. They would never be at a loss for passengers and they’d make a lot more money just circling the Makati hotspots.

Notice how I sound so inferior to them damn cab drivers. It’s because as a passenger, in Metro Manila, especially in Makati, I am inferior. That’s how the game works. It’s almost like a cab actually taking me to where I want to go is a God-sent. Cab drivers not asking for an additional P20 above the meter rate are almost miraculous.

Cab drivers are the gods of the streets. It’s stupid. But it’s true.

I can understand when cab drivers don’t want to take you to places where they know they won’t find more passengers. Times are rough, prices are high, they have mouths to feed, yadayadayada… I get that.

What absolutely makes me want to kill someone is how cab drivers reject you these days. They’re no longer apologetic. They give you the “are you crazy?/you must think I’m dumb enough to bring you there/who the fuck do you think you are?” look.

Customer service has never been a strong point. And you can pretty much forget about manners. Tourists say Filipinos are hospitable; it’s because tourists are dumb enough to accept a “plus P60” for a ride from Katipunan to Parañaque that will already cost upwards of P200.

Even the polite cab drivers—the ones who actually look embarrassed over refusing—say the stupidest things when they refuse.

Ay sorry po… Di ako papunta diyan sa inyo e, sabi ng drayber.

Sagot ko naman: E malamang… Ako nga ho ang pasahero dito.

Utopian streets would have cab drivers happily take passengers to where they need to go at metered cost. Reality says otherwise. In fact, cab drivers of our reality in Metro Manila try making you guilty for even availing of their services and try to make you feel stupid for wanting to go where you need to go.

And their excuse? Naghahanap buhay lang po kami. Mahirap e.

Sometimes I wonder why I didn’t beg for a car after graduating from high school… Teka lang. Oo nga pala. Wala kaming pera. Mahirap talaga ang panahon, di ba mga taksi draybers?

(For the record, this egotistical fuck of a 20-year-old asked to be picked up by a driver for the first time since the last time Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo actually told the truth about something.)


Finished reading Philip Roth’s American Pastoral (1997 winner of the Pulitzer Prize) a week ago. The Human Stain is still my favorite, but American Pastoral might be Roth’s more ambitious work.

It’s like Fitzgerald’s
The Great Gatsby in that it depicts the breakdown of America’s “promises of prosperity, civic order, and domestic bliss.” But as Gatsby’s message was disguised as a love story, Pastoral’s is more upfront and immediate, as the daughter of the Levovs—the perfect all-American family—turns to fanatical terrorism to deal with deeply-rooted issues in society, but more importantly, in her own family.

MV recommends.


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