Note: I wrote this around 2009 for a school publication, however, huge chunks of this piece were taken out. In 2010, I made some revisions (and posted it into my now-extinct blog). This is now the second revision. The original title was “Sitting Near Strangers”. I posted this on my Facebook profile (through the Notes application) and my blog as “In Transit”.
Hope you enjoy reading this.
I don’t drive. I don’t know how, but I know I should learn how to. Most of the time, I am glad that I don’t.
Driving in the metropolis is a dog-eat-dog process. No one wants to give way, everyone wants to go first. So you can imagine how stressful it is. And that is one reason why it’s sometimes better to commute. Plus the fact that gasoline prices are well, pricey.
Sometimes, I take a jeep. Sometimes, it’s the FX. Just recently, I take the bus more often. Slightly more expensive than the jeep, it’s cleaner. And it’s about nine or ten pesos cheaper than the FX. Costs aside, you can watch TV there too! When I’m not trying to make up for lost time in studying, I watch the show or movie. Most of the time, I am distracted (because I keep on looking at the TV screen to see what’s going on!).
But if one has to be a “busybody”, that is, if you have this tendency to wonder about the lives of the other people inside the public transportation, then the best carrier is the jeep! I’ve been guilty of being a “busybody”. Sometimes, it’s a cringeworthy moment when you see a couple who verge on public display of affection (maybe I’m just envious, haha). The worst I’ve witnessed was an argument carried by two sisters inside an MRT.
And below are my unforgettable “in transit” accounts as a commuter.
I was on my way to school. I live somewhere in Quezon City, and the public transport that I am in was an FX. (A backgrounder—it’s not easy to get a ride in an FX in a certain area in Quezon City. Sometimes, they come in droves in certain hours, and sometimes they come in trickles. I was lucky to have gotten a ride when it seemed that I was competing with the populace to get a ride.) A woman went in, and sat beside me. She seemed to have a perpetual scowl (well, she was scowling when she went in) on her face. The driver asked her politely if she locked the door, and she was, “What?” with the scowl. Somehow, the driver felt rebuffed, and said no more. A few minutes later, she opened her bag, and took out a rosary. The “lady” was praying the rosary. I think that took five minutes, and then, after that, idle time.
A little later, at Parks and Wildlife, she took out her mobile phone. She called someone. And it seemed that no one was answering, and so, she made irritated noises. It went on until we reached the MRT station in Hi-Way. Someone finally answered her call, and the lady was,
“Asan na ba kayo? Bakit ang tagal-tagal niyo sumagot?” (Where are you? Why does it take long for any one of you to answer the phone?)
“Nasa labas po kasi kami.” (We were outside the house)
And this was the clincher from the lady, who started muttering expletives, then said: “Hawak-hawakan niyo nga mga cell phone nyo!” (Hold on to your cell phones!) She said something about logging in. Then with a sound that seemed like “harrumphing”, she ended the call. What made me laugh inwardly was that the woman had the gall to put the whole call on loudspeaker.
A few minutes later, upon reaching Santo Domingo church, she took out her rosary, and started praying with the holier-than-thou expression that she used while praying prior the call. Because I was sitting next to her, it gave me an unpleasant feeling, like I had eaten eggplants (sorry, I positively loathe the vegetable). It never occurred to me that people would “sin” after prayers, as if it was nothing unusual. After a few minutes, she alighted from the vehicle. With her signature scowl, she slammed the door, and it seemed that she slammed the door so hard that the FX shook.
The driver winked at me and said, “Confess your sins first, then say your prayers afterwards.”
And I gave him a slow, small, smile in return. I understand what he meant.
I never saw that lady before that FX experience, and I never saw her again after. I wouldn’t want to.
My ‘in transit’ moment in a jeep was equally unforgettable.
A family who sat near me looked worried. The mother was carrying her sick baby daughter, and her son, whose age I gauged as four years old, did not look any better than his younger sister. The father was assuring his wife that as constituents of Congressman XYZ, they would pay less than half the medical bills in the children’s hospital. However, the man looked just as worried as his wife. And in the middle of their conversation, the baby began to cry fretfully, and the harried mother was soon at a loss.
Watching them, I felt more uncomfortable. When I was a child, and whenever we get hospitalized, we still manage to pay the hospital bills in full. I felt so guilty at times when I wanted to get sick so I can just miss one day (note that I rarely do) in class. All I had to do then was to take a tablet or two of Biogesic, and then I will be all right…most of the time. But this family made me feel grateful for my (relatively) good health and the fact we could get medication when we need it. It is tough enough to get sick. Being able to afford medication and proper treatment is another story. I felt so sorry for them, and since I felt so guilty about my “I want to get sick” wishes, I tried to go back to reading my codal.
Just when I was getting the hang of a certain provision, a little boy of about ten or eleven, or thereabouts, wiping my (newly polished) shoes (thanks to the “elves” of Mr. Quickie, who repaired them the day before). An old lady was trying to get my attention. The boy was wiping her shoes. Apparently he was done with mine. And that bothered her.
“Hindi naman marumi sapatos ko ah!” she said, tugging at my bag.
“Lola, naghahanapbuhay po yung bata.” It sounded inane, but I was trying to placate her. The sight of the child wiping the nonexistent dirt on her shoes must have really bothered her to the point of irritation.
“Bakit wala sya sa eskwelahan?” (Why isn’t he in school?) she asked me. Helplessly, I tried to find words to say, “kasi wala po siyang pangmatrikula!” in a way that would not offend the boy, who was still within earshot. But I couldn’t. The boy went over to the other passengers to collect the payment he “deserved.” When it was the old lady’s turn, the old lady started to fire questions at him, like a gun.
“Hoy, hijo, bakit nasa lansangan ka?” (Hey little boy, why are you in the streets?)
“Eh lola, inutusan ako ng nanay ko na maghanapbuhay. Sabi nya, mag-mamah-jongg daw sila ng mga kaibigan po nya. Pag wala po akong nabiling lata ng sardinas, ako daw po ang matatamaan.” (Well, granny, my mother told me that I should earn a living. She told me she’s going to play mah-jong. And if I don’t get to buy a can of sardines, I’ll get a beating.) The boy answered nonchalantly, as if answering questions like that were already a staple in his life. The old lady was uttering expletives about the irresponsibility of the boy’s mother.
“Ilan kayong magkakapatid?” she fired back. (How many are you in the family?) Continue reading