Anj, a friend of mine, frequently tweets about the often amusing experiences she has with Metro Manila cab drivers. A recent set of tweets was about a driver who kept on speaking in English for the first few minutes of the cab ride because the driver thought she does not speak Tagalog.
I don’t mind not having heartwarming cab stories of my own, despite being a frequent cab passenger myself. I’ll be content with a quiet driver taking me from point A to point B with no to minimal fuss. I will even tolerate listening to Love Radio and Papa Jack’s radio show. But a peaceful cab ride doesn’t always gravitate towards me.
Last week, I was already running late for work so hailed a cab at the intersection where I usually take an FX shuttle for Ortigas. That intersection usually has a bum who hails cabs for passengers; the “taga-para” then asks for some money from the cab driver for “giving” them a passenger. It’s an informal arrangement in many places in Manila, and a way from many otherwise-jobless people earn some money. Do I sound condescending? Because I am.
I normally dislike this arrangement because I am perfectly capable of hailing a cab myself. It doesn’t really add much efficiency in how passengers board a cab. Sometimes, the presence of multiple “taga-para” in an area even adds more chaos to the already chaotic Manila commuting experience. And most of them do not even hail cabs; they will just approach the driver to collect their “fees”. Still, I tolerate them, most of the time.
The “taga-para” and I saw the cab at the same time. I already hailed the cab when the “taga-para” also started hailing the cab for me. When the cab driver stopped; the “taga-para” tried to open the cab’s door like a valet to let me in. I didn’t let him and climbed into the cab myself.
The “taga-para” approached the driver to collect money, but the driver refused. The “taga-para” then hit his fist against the cab’s body, causing the cab driver to go out in a temper and shouted at the other man. It quickly devolved into a pissing contest, the driver threatening the other guy with bodily harm if only he didn’t have a passenger. Oh great, so I was robbing him of the satisfaction of hitting someone.
While the two men were puffing their skinny chests at each other, the traffic light changed color and I tried to call the driver back and drive. Still stoke, he didn’t hear me and got back in just after the light changed to red again.
Now it was my turn to get angry.
“Bakit mo kasi inaway?” I shouted at him. “Tinatawag kita, hindi ka nakikinig. Late na ko dahil sa’yo.”
The driver went back in, shrugged, and said I didn’t tell him I was in a hurry. It infuriated me further but I did not speak much during the rest of the ride to Ortigas.
The night before that was worse.
It started benignly enough: The ride was uneventful until we reached the Kalayaan-JP Rizal Extension intersection where we should have made a left to C5. As soon as the light changed, the cab suddenly surged forward instead of turning.
“Saan ka pupunta?” I asked the driver incredulously. “Dapat sa C5 tayo dumaan.” But we couldn’t make a u-turn anymore because of the build-up in the opposite lanes stretches several streets and will delay us further.
The driver explained that traffic was heavy in C5 and he planned to go through EDSA. In my experience, there is absolutely no reason why EDSA would be preferrable to C5 when going to Ortigas. The route is much longer and the traffic is almost always heavier. I was pissed and I made sure the driver knew it.
I shouldn’t have trusted a cab named “Saddam”.
When we approached Shaw Boulevard, the driver attempted another delaying maneouver: he tried to swing to the Shaw underpass, but I caught him in time.
“Bakit mo idadaan d’yan?” I shouted. “Ikanan mo!”
I watched him closely as we entered Greenfield and went for San Miguel Avenue. The sneaky bastard is tried to get me through a longer route.
When we finally reached Emerald Avenue, he messed our route yet a final time by missing the u-turn slot so we can switch to the opposite lanes. This, despite my instructions.
I immediately told him to stop, paid my fare, got out, and started walking to my building. A pair of Koreans hailed the cab and wanted to get in. I half-thought of warning them not to take that cab, but decided not to. I was already several minutes late, and counting.