climb

death by public commute

the more i think about it, the more i am convinced that i managed to escape, if not thwart, or at least delay, a bus robbery the other night. i boarded a bus near my building, and planned to disembark near the LRT buendia station along taft. it was already late at night, although the bus was curiously full. i managed to get a seat on the fifth or sixth row when we reached osmeña avenue. there were two guys seated ahead of me who kept looking to the back of the bus, but i thought nothing of it. perhaps they were just staring at the girls who chattered loudly behind me. i was in no mood to eavesdrop and didn't care about the topic of their conversation. finally, when the bus stopped close to the intersection of taft and buendia, i got ready to go down, but the man in front who kept looking to the back got up and made his way towards the girls. at first i thought how inconvenient and stupid that he would go against the flow. but his actions afterwards sparked suspicion in me: he held on tightly to the third row seat, bent his body so that his backside leaned on the side of the seats on the other side, his torso angled completely to fill the aisle. i muttered excuse me, but he didn't budge and seemed to stiffen his body even more as he felt a slight push. i said excuse me a little louder and he still didn't move, and my spider sense started tingling immediately. i felt as if i'd read about this somewhere, or imagined it happening before, or drew upon someone else's memory, but i knew they were going to announce a hold-up.

so i forced myself with all my might against him, lifted myself over his torso by pushing against the backrests of the seats beside me, and had one of my legs caught as he bent back that i nearly dove into the aisle beside the driver. i looked back just before i jumped out of the door and he had this surprised look on his face. he relaxed and allowed other passengers to disembark. immediately afterwards i felt perhaps i was just overthinking the turn of events and that my spider sense had been on steroids to have sent alarm signals when it was simply a case of a rude passenger trying to sexually harass some unsuspecting girls. but i could have been right, and if i hadn't acted the way i did, they may have gotten my iPhone, the contents of my wallet, and the valuables of many other passengers on the bus.

i've only come to be convinced now because i charged my wild imaginations to my rather recent bout of paranoia involving public transport and public places. lately, we've been bombarded by news of people being killed in road accidents: a bus rams into another that's loading passengers, killing 6; another one falls off the skyway, killing at least 18. 412 innocents were killed in road mishaps in metro manila alone in 2012. this bothers me because most of these fatalities are people going about their normal daily routines, wanting to get home to their families, or eager to punch  the clock at work, but instead meet an untimely, and often gruesome, death. it bothers me because like them, i am a commuter, and i put my life into the hands of a bus driver, a taxi driver, and thousands of other drivers whose degree of skill, level of alertness, and commitment to safety, i am not the least familiar with, nor am i sufficiently assured.

the worrying statistic from the MMDA notwithstanding, i recently found myself feeling troubled and uneasy each time i took public transport -- a feeling that i'm not familiar with. during short commutes within the metro i would wonder if it would be my last trip. even more difficult is when i travel to far-away distances, and find myself restless, waking up each time the driver steps on the brakes or bleats his horn. i open my eyes to find out whether i've survived a collision, or would witness a roadside fatality. during a recent flight, i was fidgety in my seat as the aircraft shook during an encounter with air pockets. the turbulence was so bad the cabin crew had to return to their stations and i found myself muttering a prayer. i've been on many many flights, but it felt as if it was my first time, and i was seriously scared.

yes, i was obviously paranoid. but not needlessly. i had good reason to believe that any one of those commutes could have ended my life. sometimes we do not realize it, but we put our lives at risk each day, regardless what we do, whether we ride public transport or our own private conveyance. perhaps this gnawing fear might have been fuelled by particularly awful dreams about near-death experiences during the few days that i was feeling sick. but regardless, i am unable to put my faith in the structures that surround our lives, the structures on which our lives depend. i hope this lack of confidence in a suddenly unreliable public transport system would just fade away. but certainly, i refuse to consign my fate and destiny to an unfortunate happenstance, brought about by the negligence of a person other than myself.
Hi Alman -- stay paranoid
Take care of yourself, and we really should stay aware that we do not live, work, and travel in that safe a city. Doesn't mean that we should over-react, but still. . :P

I remember a bus ride to Manila last year, this was from Baguio right after TNF. It was an overnight bus, and it wasn't Victory Liner. I happened to sit on the front row of the bus, so I was close to the driver. I'm a light sleeper so even in the wee hours, I found myself awake at times. I think it's a good thing 'coz I swear that this driver was dozing off or about to, on the SCTEX. I found myself offering food to the driver and mentally willing the conductress to chat with the driver so that he would not sleep. There were times where I thought the bus was not following the lines on the road so those could have been microsleeps. I was so thankful of the traffic of NLEX -- traffic means no high speed collisions.

Cheers Alman
Re: Hi Alman -- stay paranoid
thanks fabs for affirming that my paranoia in regard to public transport isn't completely unhealthy. i think bus companies should do their part in ensuring that their drivers are alert and awake and well-trained and that their units are well-maintained. but also the national government should ensure that our roads are in good condition. but then again, you're right, maybe traffic and bad roads are "good" because they ensure that no one is going too fast.