#30DayWritingChallenge: Something that happened in a car.

Day Twenty-Two: Something that happened in a car.

The world started spinning the moment I stood from my seat.

“Can I stay over at your place?” I asked the guy I just met. He was friends with my friends and I thought he was trustworthy. Cute and trustworthy.

It didn’t help, the short walk to the roadway. Every step felt like a tumble and I begun feeling like my stomach was starting to protest.

It wasn’t the only one. I vaguely remembered one of our companions complaining. He wanted to be with the guy. How did I ever get so lucky?

The cab driver might have had misgivings if he should let us in. His instincts were right, of course, but he still agreed to bring us to Pasig.

I can’t remember what the ride was like, now. It was probably awkward and quiet. I wouldn’t trust myself talking while trying to hold my beer down. The world was hazy and my eyes couldn’t focus.

It happened when the cab was about a hundred meters from the guy’s place, like a bad sitcom sequence. That point where I could have waited just another minute and things would not have been as embarrassing. I threw up.

No one throws up with dignity. One can hope that he can at least open the cab window and let puke fall out to the street. I didn’t do that.

Damn manual car windows. I barfed while the window was still halfway open with some vomit falling on the cab floor. The driver should have listened to his instincts.

At least I didn’t puke on the guy. He wouldn’t have slept with me if I did.

Taxing taxi rides.

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.

Bubblegummy

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.

Philcoa street theater.

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.

C5 corner Kalayaan.

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.

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After Art in the Park.

The cab was waiting there, outside Salcedo park. I hailed it and quickly got in. The driver was waiting for other people to get it, but it seemed they changed their mind. Lucky for me.

The driver asked what was happening in the park, if there was some party going on. I told him about Art in the Park. He said he wished he could’ve brought his son with him.

His son drew well. He proudly stated how his son did henna tattoos and often covered his room with drawings.

The driver couldn’t draw, himself, but he encouraged his son with his talent, buying henna or paint, if the son asked for some. There was pride there, the way he told me their story. His neighbors sometimes asked him why he and his wife let their son do whatever he pleased but the father told them that is talent there and he and his wife wanted their son to use it.

I told him his son was very lucky to have a father like him.

During the drive, we talked about his work and his family. How he often sleeps in his cab because he only gets to go home on weekends; his family lives outside Manila. How his other child cooks well, better than him, and that was the other child’s talent.

He got me to work on time, despite leaving Salcedo later than I planned to. I gave him a tip on top of what the meter said.

In hindsight, I may have given him too much. I think I gave him 1000 pesos which I mistook as 100.

I feel bad losing that much money, but at the same time I hope I did give him that bill instead of losing it elsewhere.

I should start spending less from today until payday.

On speed.

The cab driver seemed a little nervous, a little on the edge. Normally, I enjoy speedy cars but the way he swerved around other vehicles in moderately heavy traffic made me pull the safety belt and lock myself into the seat.

He was bragging how his car might be old, but it’s used to passengers telling him to speed up because they are running late.

“I’m already late as it it,” I told him. “I don’t really care about getting there quickly anymore.”

He was a chatty person. I was in a chatty mood so I didn’t mind it. He told of frequent passengers, one of which also worked in a BPO. He said BPO workers eventually grow skinny from working at nights.

I told him, not really. Many BPO workers gain more weight. Eating can sometimes be a way of dealing with the lack of sleep. I know this from experience.

For one thing or another, our conversation ended up on taking meth. Maybe it was the talk of how to lose weight and him saying that he used to be heavier. He lost weight when he started using meth to keep himself awake so he can drive for more hours.

“You earn little outside the ‘boundary’,” he said. “So in this job, you sacrifice sleep.”

Dusk, Bonifacio Global City

My view on recreational drug use has softened as I grew older. I’m fine with weed, but I wouldn’t personally try harder stuff. I know people who can handle their drugs; I know people who couldn’t. It’s like people and alcohol, which, when you think about it, is just another recreational drug.

Still, I was not sure if I was comfortable with being driven by someone who seemed to have admitted that he’s on meth. The driver joked maybe I should give meth a try.

“People have different trips,” he expounded, “some are in it for increased libido, some crave for food, some look for trouble. I only do it when I’m working, otherwise I don’t.”

He was proud of being able to keep a family and raise his kids, unlike other cab drivers who had left their spouses and hooked up with other partners, presumably because of meth use.

I was relieved to finally reach my destination and get out of the cab. I added a little extra to the cab fair because he took me away from the usual route I take, which had unusually heavy traffic that night.

For a moment, I thought about telling him to be careful in choosing to whom he will be confiding with about his meth use, but the moment passed and I didn’t. I was already an hour late.

If I wasn’t running late, I would have paid more attention to the cab driver’s story.

“What a waste,” he confided a minute after I got in. “A woman asked me if he could bring her to Pasay.” The driver refused; he was nearly done with his shift and was about to head back to Cubao.

And it was a beautiful woman, he said, still reliving the conversation. The girl was young and a little round. While we were hurtling along EDSA, he gestured how her buttocks jiggled when she walked.

The driver, on the other hand, was old and tired-looking. He looked like the type who’d go drinking all night when not driving, and was the rowdiest drunk guy when he had downed a few bottles.

“And she fluttered her eyes at me,” he confided to me. “As if that kind of flirting would change my mind!”

Just about that time, the cab radio started playing “Bakit” by Imelda Papin, with it’s familiar chorus: “Kung liligaya ka sa piling ng iba?” The song sounded very apt for that man.

“You weren’t born yet when that song came out,” he told me, obviously assuming I was younger than my actual age. “They used to play that in the provinces. People would dance to this song, wearing flared pants.” These were the stories I heard from the mother, while growing up.

I wanted to humor the driver and tell him I still wear flared pants, but I was in a hurry and I’m still tired from the trip back from Baguio to Manila that afternoon.