I have a love-hate relationship with commuting. I love it because far-flung places become accessible with just a train, a bus, or a jeep, and the hassle of dealing with rude drivers and ignorant pedestrians are off my hands. I have this irrational fear of hitting someone or something while I’m driving so this endears commuting to me. Also, I can do a lot of things while I’m in commuting. I can listen to my iPod if I want to drown the rest of the world out or enjoy a good book. On the other hand, I have to deal with other things like rudeness from other passengers and the dreaded rush hour. There is also the hassle of changing rides, the rising expenses, and the appropriate attire. Fancy threads are out of the question if you’re planning to ride the village trycyle.
Yesterday, I made my once-a-month foray into heavy commuting when I was invited to the christening of Eunice’s baby, Myllie. Eunice is one of my closest friends from UST and I was a godfather so I was expected to come. It was also a chance to see friends I haven’t seen since I left UST. It was a very long day made longer by my route. In all, I had to get through four malls and endure seven rides to get to Quezon City and back.
I thanked my lucky stars I only have to do this once a month. Along with my experience last night, below are the 12 most memorable events (and etc.) in my commuting history:
12. I’ve had my fair share of embarrassing moments while I was commuting such as falling off the back seat of a trycyle. I got on, and while I was settling myself, the driver revved his engine and I fell off like a pineapple in a fruit stand. It was tres mortifying because there were people and a car who stopped to enjoy my public humiliation.
Another embarrassing moment was when I was on my way home from a date. It was bad enough that my date sucked, but it got worse when my ride left me behind. It was a van and I was seated beside the door so I thought it was one of those vehicles where I had to go down first so the people behind me could leave. One of the passengers had reached his stop and because I didn’t know there was enough space to go down without me moving, I got off. I got the shock of my life when someone closed the door and the van started to leave. The worst thing was, I tried opening the door and telling the driver this wasn’t my stop. When I got back on, I could hear snickers from the back. I could have pretended it was my stop and get another ride but no, I had to humiliate myself.
11. I consider Jack, Jose, Miguel and Jim to be my best friends so seeing me drunk is not unusual. What’s unusual is my ability to commute home when I’m hammered. I don’t always take cabs (I’m a cheapskate, so sue me), so getting home in one piece with all my belongings is something. I take cabs when I get rat-faced in a club or somewhere far but when I’m nearby, I take the friendly neighborhood jeep and trycyle. Once, when I passed out in the handicapped restroom in ATC, I managed to get home alive. I don’t remember how, but I’m here to tell the tale and that’s all that matters.
10. I started commuting full-time when I entered college. An uncle taught me to get a ride to Baclaran and from there a jeep to Dapitan, the street behind UST. I detested it because I’m prone to sweating and jeeps aren’t exactly cold when you’re riding for a good half hour. I would usually arrive in school with messed-up hair and sweating my ass off. I also got lost on a couple of occasions, arriving in places like Recto (I think) and the actual Baclaran market. One day, while I was on a bus to Baclaran, a girl from UST sat next to me. Back then, I didn’t think getting on the same bus with a co-Thomasian was usual so I struck a conversation. Things led to another until she found out my route to school. She laughed, gave me a pat on my arm and taught me the proper way of commuting. I didn’t know that Lawton (I had no idea what a Lawton was in those days), the last stop of the bus, was five to ten minutes away from school. A very nice person, that Genny. I never had an uncomfortable trip to school since then.
9. I keep getting compliments about my height and if I could have a peso for every time someone said they wished they, or their son were as tall as me, I would be filthy stinking rich. It pays to be tall when you’re on a crowded train because your head’s above everyone else’s and not in between people’s underarms. I’ve never been acquainted with Mr. Stinky Underarms but things are different on jeeps, buses, and trycycles. Sometimes vehicles are so low that I have to crouch to fit, and it’s very uncomfortable. Somes buses have seats so close that I get cramps.
8. One of the best things about commuting is when you’re with your partner. My boyfriend and I would always hold hands (discreetly of course) when we’re on a bus and it’s surprisingly relaxing. I even got into some action a couple of times. The most outrageous thing I’ve done (and I’m not sure how I did this), was when I let an ex-boyfriend kiss me on the lips in the middle of Espana while he was waiting for me to get a ride.
7. One time, while I was making my monthly trip up north to meet my UST friends in Trinoma, things ran late when I noticed that the train was about to close. I wanted to pee (I had around eight glasses of iced tea during dinner and a huge latte from Starbucks) but I decided to hold it in until I got to Taft because the vans to Las Pinas were in the basement of a mall. Unfortunately, I missed the last train so I was forced to take a bus. I saw one right away so I got on. I didn’t want to stay long because I don’t want to risk getting held up or killed so I held my pee and waited till I got to Taft. The bus was going to Taft, but not EDSA Taft. It was going to Buendia, meaning it was going to Makati first. And boy did it take its time. It seemed to circle the entire city, stopping for minutes at a time to wait for passengers. I felt like my bladder was about to explode. I was tempted many times to go down and pee in one of the ubiquitous Starbucks but I was afraid that I if I go down, I won’t find any more buses and would have to take a cab. That’s how much of a cheapskate I am. So I was forced to wait in agony until I reached my destination. When I got down in Buendia, I peed at a gas station and stood over the urinal for a good five minutes. I kid you not.
6. The threat of rain is worse to a commuter because it’s harder to get a ride and you’re doomed if you don’t have an umbrella. While I was on my way home after lunch with a friend, I stood in the station waiting for the train. I was relieved that I finally got out of the rain, but when the train lurched to a stop, the water splashed all over me. And my linen pants.
My experience as a two-year Thomasian exposed me to the horrors of commuting during rainy season. I’ve only experienced the infamous flood one time when I was heading home and I was in an FX to Lawton. To this day, I still wonder how I got in the FX. What I will remember is the time when I got down, my entire leg got dipped in water.
5. I listen to my iPod during commutes because radios play baduy songs I can’t stand. One time, I noticed this really old lady staring at me while I was on a jeep to school. She was saying something so I lowered the volume so I could hear her. I got creeped out when I realized she was trying to pick a fight by saying something about the Japanese taking over the Philippines during the war. I then noticed the other passengers were looking at me too. Scared to do anything, I raised the volume and drowned her out.
4. When I was still getting the hang of commuting, I didn’t know that when a bus broke down, you can get on another one for free as long as it was under the same company. While I was on my way home from school, I experienced my first breakdown. It happened just before the tollgate along Coastal Road. Because I didn’t know it was for free, I panicked because I didn’t have extra money. I stood there freezing my nuts off (I was wearing my PE uniform) while the rest of the passengers got on other buses. I attempted to get a cab and have my mom pay for it but all the cabs were taken. It was a highway so an empty cab was pretty unlikely. I contemplated calling my mom to pick me up but it would be a hassle. It wasn’t only until I asked the conductor that I found out the ride was free. It took me a half hour.
3. A list of memorable events in commuting isn’t complete without stories of being robbed. I was fortunate enough never to have these kinds of experiences but I have close calls. I think. Two years ago, I was at Fashion Week and I was dressed nice. I even had a blazer on. I spent some money that night so I was shocked to discover that I barely had enough money to go home. I decided to take a cab to Baclaran and from there get a jeep. Like I said, I was dressed nice. When I got on the jeep, there were two other passengers with me, a guy and a girl. Just when we were about to leave, a group of not so nice looking men got in with us. I didn’t mind them at first but I kept my guard up when I noticed they were looking at each of the passengers. Especially me. I even thought it was going to be an inside job because I noticed them exchange looks with the driver and they didn’t pay their fare. At Zapote (the first stop in Las Pinas), the girl got down. The “goons” kept looking at me and the other passenger and when the other guy got down, my heart raced. When I heard one of the guys whisper, “o pano yan, isa nalang ang pasahero” (there’s only one passenger left), I freaked. I got down a stop early and almost passed out when one of the guys grabbed my arm while I was going down. Oh my gosh, I thought to myself, this is it, I’m about to die. The guy looks at me and says, “May sampung piso ka ba diyan?” (Do you have ten pesos?) I almost died of a heart attack.
Another time when I almost got robbed (or thought I was) was when I was on my way to to school. I got off a bus from Las Pinas and was waiting for a jeep that would take me to Dapitan. My phone hung from a strap around my neck and though I usually tuck it in my uniform when I commute, I forgot because a jeep arrived right away. When I got on, my phone swung around, a willing bait for snatchers. I quickly scanned the surroundings for evil looking people and noticed an old lady sitting next to me. She was kind of far so I didn’t worry. And then I saw a girl sitting across me looking at my phone. My phone then was the hot pink MotoRazr so I assumed she was just staring at the color. I caught her making signals to the lady next to me and out of the corner of my eye, I saw the lady staring and inching herself to me. The girl kept staring at my phone while her “cohort” was getting closer. I freaked out so I transferred seats.
2. Seeing hot guys. ‘Nuff said.
1. The best thing about commuting is the train. The MRT is a godsend. With it, I can go from Point A to Point B in record time. I can go to Quezon City in less than an hour as long as I get the train. It has its downs like multitudes of people squeezing themselves into a tiny compartment and the risk of losing your phone, but it’s fast, it’s cheap, and it’s accessible. Cubao, Quezon City, and Mandaluyong doesn’t seem so far now that I know how to use the MRT. And now that they’ve extended their hours till midnight, I’m one happy commuter.
Come to think of it, I’m glad I transferred to Perpetual, a trycyle ride away from where I live.