Archive for the ‘In Traffic’
You know how, in the Philippines, when a small enterprise becomes successful, everyone rushes to get into that line of business? It happened with lechong manok, shawarma, pearl drinks, milk tea. All the neighbors dreamed of being hot pan de sal magnates when I was a kid. Now I think it is happening with Uber.
Uber is the ride-sharing app that puts car owners together with people in need of transport. Essentially it’s a taxi service minus the franchise and the aggravation of haggling with taxi drivers. (Taxi apps actually legitimize the “kontrata” system—passengers offer the drivers tips even before they’ve entered the taxi. It’s a bidding war, and the result is to reward asshole behavior.)
One advantage of riding taxis is that I get stories I can repeat in my column. Like the one about the driver who was reading a warrant of arrest for murder, which I hope he had not personally committed. I have had some memorable conversations with cabbies; practically the only thing we have not discussed is the Hardy-Ramanujan taxi number (1729), and when that comes up I know it is a sign that I should start a taxi company.
In recent years I’ve had only two arguments with drivers. The first driver checked the route with me every 30 seconds, and when I said, “I don’t know, you’re the driver,” flew into a rage and cried, “Kailangan mo bang mag-Inglis?” The other was a cranky old person who said we could not go straight on Legaspi Street towards Greenbelt, and when I pointed out that we could, launched into a stream of invective about women being possessed by the devil. Which made me furious, but I was not as proficient at cussing in Tagalog as he was, so I just tossed the exact fare on the front seat and said, “Mamamatay ka.” I had meant to say “Mamatay ka”—drop dead—but in my rage repeated a syllable, so it came out as “You will die.” Which is a statement of fact: everybody dies, if not now then eventually, but the crabby cabbie interpreted it as a threat and started screaming out the window as I walked off, thus increasing his chances of having an aneurysm and proving me psychic.
Read our column at InterAksyon.com.
From the archive: Makati Murder Mystery (2009)
So I’m in a taxi on a sweltering Tuesday afternoon, crawling through
the traffic on McKinley Road, and we stop at a red light. The driver
opens the glove compartment and takes out a sheaf of papers. I don’t
mean to look but I can read the print clearly over his shoulder. I
wish I hadn’t looked because it’s a document issued by a Regional
Trial Court. A warrant of arrest.
Our real answers to the “Purpose of travel” item in the visa application form
1. Amok prevention. We love living here, but this city keeps pushing and pushing and pushing us and if we do not take a break we will snap. Take this morning. Please. In sane traffic, it would take us no more than ten minutes to get to the embassy for our appointment. This morning it took us an hour and a half, and the only reason the taxi driver agreed to drive us was because we bribed him. (Yeah there are taxi apps. Same principle: They’ll drive you if you’re willing to pay more. And the “kontrata” system is now legitimized as “tips”. In effect we are incentivizing asshole behavior, but people just want to get home safely and with the least aggravation.)
2. Sanity maintenance. We are very, very, very, very, very tired. We haven’t had a proper vacation in years. All our trips have been work assignments. In fact the last real vacation we had—”real” meaning we could do whatever we wanted and we didn’t have to say nice things about the trip sponsor or shut up when something went wrong—was eight years ago, in the same place.
3. Perspective. We love our country when we’re somewhere else and can think about it objectively.
4. The horror of sameness. We need to feel like an alien in an alien land. It makes us think better. Here we only feel like a freak. A bored, enervated freak.
5. The comfort of being in a place where people read books on the train—good books—and cafes give prizes to the best novels written on the premises.
What we wrote on the visa form