Posts Tagged ‘taxi’

pop goes the world: psst! hey, taxi! v. 2

I’ve been inundated with work the past couple of weeks and am struggling to surface from the depths, swimming upwards to the light and air while fending off sharks, straining seawater through my teeth to obtain plankton for nourishment, and beating deadlines.

For last week’s “Pop Goes the World” column (August 12), I revived an earlier blog post and added social commentary and analysis, as the earlier essay was merely descriptive.

Click here to read the piece at Manila Standard-Today Online.

I had this interesting conversation, apropos of nothing, with an assistant general manager at work yesterday. What makes it special is that I just met her last week:

AGM: “I liked your ‘Psst!”

Me: “Excuse me, whaaat?!”

AGM: (takes my hands) “Psssst!”

Me: (totally clueless) “Sorry, Ma’am, I don’t know what you mean.”

AGM: “Your ‘Psst! Taxi.”

Me: (bright light dawns) “Oh. You read my column? Thanks, that makes two of us!”

AGM: (smiles) “Oo naman.”

I love you, ma’am. <3

UPDATE, 7 Apr 2012: MST recently revamped their website and the link is lost. Here’s the column as it appeared in full in print:

POP GOES THE WORLD By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 12 August 2010, Thursday

Psst! Hey, Taxi!

Cabs are everywhere in Manila, except, of course, when you need them most—when you’re in a hurry, and when it’s raining.

Let’s say you find one. Slipping into it, you expect a swift, safe ride to your destination in air-conditioned comfort. But have you reckoned with your taxi driver? Over years of riding cabs, I’ve observed there are two kinds: the silent and the not.

A quiet cabbie is restful, soothing. You tell him where you want to be taken. “Escolta?” He nods, puts the car in gear, and drives. He knows the fastest and easiest way to get to your destination. The entire trip, not a word escapes his lips. You lean back on the seat, perhaps shut your eyes to rest them. You listen to the radio if it’s on. The silent types usually don’t have it on; if they do, it’s tuned to a soothing station that plays pop or ballads, the volume at a discreet level.

But what if you end up with the just-won’t-shut-up type? This is the kind I get 90 percent of the time. It seems I have the kind of face that cabbies like to talk to.

In my experience, loquacious cab taxi drivers fall into the following categories:

The Political Pundit—His radio is nailed to a talk show where the host spends hours swearing at corrupt politicians. The Political Pundit is well-informed on current events and discusses issues such as the global recession and the fuel price hikes, usually from his own point of view as a cabbie.“Those @##$ raised the price of gas, but not the taxi flagdown rate!”

The Missionary—His radio is tuned to a religious station with a preacher interpreting a Bible chapter in an excited tone, or he plays gospel music on his stereo. At first he is quiet, gauging you. Then he strikes. “Are you a Christian, sister? Are you saved?” He goes on to lecture his viewpoint while refusing to acknowledge your own. Debating is futile and only leads to a pounding headache.

The Lonely One Looking for Someone to Talk To—This one usually is heartbroken over a woman—could be girlfriend, wife, or mistress. Knowing he will most likely never see you again and that you’re a captive audience, he pours his heart out, venting his ire about the woman who has done him wrong, or to whom he has done wrong, and so is suffering a (momentary) twinge of remorse about.

The Guy Who Loves to Hear the Sound of His Own Voice—He will talk about anything with hardly a pause for breath. The weather, his oras ng garahe, the weather… At some point, to escape the endless and boring flow of words, you seriously contemplate jumping out of the cab, committing suicide, or strangling the driver.

The Sage—This is a philosopher who delivers words of wisdom, sometimes cryptic, sometimes straightforward. One told me, “Filipinos are hard-headed. Ayaw nating nadi-disiplina. Gusto natin tayo ang nasusunod.” He then outlined a plan to pen jaywalkers in a shed at road corners or dividers for a couple of hours “to teach them a lesson”.

The Man of the World—Over the years, he’s observed trends in human behavior and shifts in societal mores. One early morning, my cabbie pointed to a young woman in sunglasses, tank top, and miniskirt: “She’s a bar girl, on her way home from work. I’ve had a lot of them in my cab, often with their unemployed younger lovers. It’s a growing trend among women who work. Even professionals.” I asked him to tell me more about kept men. “I started noticing it in the ‘90s,” he said. “For men nowadays, ‘money talks’ na. Wala nang delicadeza.”

The Flirt—His spiel goes something like this: “How old are you, ma’am? You don’t look your age. You’re very beautiful. You have kids? You must have married young. How’s your husband doing? Oh, you’re hiwalay? May I have your cell phone number, then?” All this delivered with a cheesy grin and the honorific po liberally sprinkled like glitter, so as not to offend.

As an acculturated Filipino, in all cases my response is a stock repertoire of noncommittal phrases—“Uh huh.” “Ay, talaga po?” “Ganoon po ba?” “Kawawa naman.” “Tsk, tsk.” Friends of Western mentality scold me: “Say it’s none of their business! Or tell them you’re busy and you want to rest.”

So why do I even bother to reply? In Philippine culture, to ignore someone who has begun a conversation is rude. A person who does so would be deemed hindi marunong makipag-kapwa. Even a perfunctory response is expected as the minimum.

For the Filipino, the other’s—the kapwa’s—business is also their own. Kapwa has been translated as “togetherness”, a concept tied to a Filipino’s sense of self. To be inconsiderate to the kapwa who is hindi ibang tao is more than the height of discourtesy; it puts society itself in jeopardy. Early tribes needed to cooperate to survive; this holds true today. In the overseas Filipino workers experience, the first thing most Filipinos do when arriving in a foreign country is seek out kababayans to help with settling down and fitting in.

Whether you get a silent or a talkative cab driver, you get taken to where you want to go. Getting the gabby ones are a plus: annoying, maybe; irritating, perhaps; yet always interesting. You get off at your destination having learned something more about current events, Filipino culture, and—only if you are discerning and willing to learn from everyone you meet—the human condition.   *** 

taste more:

pssst! hey, taxi!

Cabs are everywhere in Manila, except, of course, when you need them most – when you’re in a hurry, and when it’s raining.

Their other cab is called “Bridge Over the River…”

Let’s say you find one. Slipping into it, you expect a swift, safe ride to your destination in airconditioned comfort.

But have you reckoned with your taxi driver? There are two kinds: the silent type, and the not.

A quiet cabbie is restful, soothing. You tell him where you want to be taken. “Escolta?” He nods, puts the car in gear, and drives. He knows where to go, the fastest and easiest way to get there, and does not require instruction. The entire trip, not a word escapes his lips. You lean back in the seat, perhaps shut your eyes to rest them. You listen to the radio, if it’s on. The silent types usually don’t have it on; if they do, it’s tuned to a soothing station that plays pop or ballads, the volume turned down to muzak level. You use the time to rehearse your pitch to the client you’re about to meet, think about saving up for that adorable purple tote, or refine your plans for world domination.

But what if you end up with the other kind? The garrulous, talkative, just-won’t-shut-up type?

In my experience, they fall into the following classes:

  1. The Political Expert – His radio is nailed to a talk show where the host spends hours swearing at corrupt politicians. The Political Expert is well-informed on current events and can discuss issues like the global recession and the fuel price hikes knowledgeably, usually from his own point of view as a cabbie. “Tinaas na naman ng mga @##$ na iyan ang presyo ng gasolina, pero hindi tinaasan ang flagdown ng taxi!” (Those @##$ raised the price of gas, but they haven’t increased the taxi flagdown rate!) He names wayward politicos and rattles off their offenses in a derisive, chiding tone, like the one you’d use to a tall person who plays basketball badly. “Iyang si (deleted), puro pangungurakot ang inaatupag imbis na tumulong sa distrito niya.” (That (name of politician) is busy lining his pockets instead of helping the people in his district.)
  2. The Religious Nut – His radio is tuned to a religious station with a preacher explaining a Bible chapter in an excited tone, or he plays gospel music on his stereo. At first he is quiet, gauging you. Then he strikes. “Kristiyano ka ba, sister?” (Are you a Christian?) “Ligtas ka na ba?” (Are you saved?) I mistakenly debated with two. One was a Jehovah’s Witness. I presented the point of view of a Protestant and he took great delight in shooting down all my arguments, though never really seeing my point of view. The other professed to be a born-again Christian. I tried to shock him by telling him I was agnostic. He fell silent for a while; I thought I had shut up him, but no, he merely redoubled his efforts at converting an ateista.
  3. The Lonely One na Naghahanap ng Kausap (Looking for Someone to Talk To) - This one usually is heartbroken over a woman – could be his girlfriend, wife, or mistress. Knowing he will most likely never see you again and that you’re a captive audience, he pours his heart out to you, venting his ire about the woman that done him wrong, or that he done wrong to and as a consequence is suffering a (momentary) twinge of guilt or regret about.
  4. The Guy Who Loves to Hear the Sound of His Own Voice: He will talk about anything. But anything, with hardly a pause for breath. At some point, to escape the endless and boring flow of words, you will seriously contemplate jumping out of the cab, committing suicide, or strangling the driver.
  5. The Flirt – His spiel goes something like this: “Ilang taon ka na, mam? Talaga? (Insert age here) ka na? Hindi mukha. Ang ganda-ganda niyo po. May anak na kayo? Ambata niyo sigurong nag-asawa. Kumusta na po asawa niyo? Ay, hiwalay ba kayo? Puede pong malaman ang cellphone number niyo?” (How old are you, ma’am? Really? You don’t look it. You’re very beautiful. You have kids? You must have married young. How’s your husband? Oh, you’re separated? May I know your cellphone number, then?) All this delivered with a cheesy grin.

Not to reply, in Philippine culture, would be considered rude and hindi marunong makipag-kapwa (does not know how to get along with others). As a thoroughly acculturated Filipino, in all cases, my response is a stock repertoire of noncommittal phrases – “Uh huh.” “Ay, talaga po?” (Oh, really? with the honorific po as a term of respect) “Ganoon po ba?” (Is it like that?) “Grabe ‘nga ‘yang si (insert name of government official being excoriated).” (That person’s too much.) “Kawawa naman.” (Poor guy.) “Tsk, tsk.”

Both ways, you get an interesting ride. Annoying, yes; irritating, perhaps; yet always interesting. You get off at your destination refreshed, or having learned something more about the human condition.

taste more: