I previously thought it was just that I am bad at remembering places and therefore terrible at giving directions, but I placed my finger on it last night. It's only partly because of picky drivers, the fare (especially the padagdag) and the stories one hears about sedation by gas and other modi operandi. It's more the awkwardness of being trapped in an enclosed space with a potentially-psychotic-but-not-really-a-criminal driver, because let's admit it: there's a higher chance of you getting that type than an actual criminal one, and that higher chance is what I'm much more afraid of.
My friend Kennan and I had dinner in Eastwood last night after I joined him for a workout at his gym. Exhausted, we decided to take a cab home, but no cab would take us until we finally got one at the taxi lane beside T. G. I. Friday's.
The cabbie was a middle-aged man who reminded me of my neighbor downstairs. He had a close crop which he scratched every time there was something that disappointed him (and whenever he did so, images of dandruff and lice popped in my head).
"Sa Karangalan po tayo," we said. "Magsaysay (Street)."
"Naku! Magsaysay. Trapik dun. Bahala na kayo sa dagdag ha." Scratch, scratch, scratch.
"Sige ho, Marcos Highway na lang tayo. Pa-Imelda (Avenue) na lang para hindi traffic."
He thankfully obliged, but then saw traffic building up approaching LRT's Santolan station.
"Naku! Ayan na ang trapik." Scratch, scratch, scratch. Then, noticing that vehicles are actually moving, he said, "Ah, gumagalaw naman pala. Okay na 'yan."
He didn't go straight toward Sta. Lucia Mall to get to Imelda Ave., however. Instead, through no prompting from Kennan or me, he took the Ligaya route, which meant that to get to our destination we would have to take...
"Magsaysay na ho tayo nito," we reminded the driver.
"Naku! Magsaysay? Akala ko hindi kayo Magsaysay." Scratch, scratch, scratch, as if this were the first time he was hearing Magsaysay being mentioned and as if it wasn't his fault we were on that route in the first place.
We didn't actually take Magsaysay Street because of the experimental rerouting system in place in the area, but about a block away from our destination, he asked, "Aabot ba kayo ng Imelda?"
"Hindi na ho. Sa kanto na lang kami," we said to not further disappoint the cabbie. It was the truth anyway.
The meter was at about P100 when we stopped. Kennan gave P100 and I added P60, which Kennan thought was too much, but I hoped at least that was one less disappointment the cabbie didn't have to scratch his head for.
Kennan and I didn't choose our destination last night simply to spite the cab driver. It wasn't our fault whoever's in charge of Pasig's traffic management like to piss off motorists with confusing and inadequately disseminated experimental route changes (I just found out the routes in our area have been reverted to normal today. Scratch, scratch, scratch). But all my opinions aside about how horrible our country's road traffic is, my point is this: Like that highly overused Forrest Gump quote, you just never know what kind of cabbie you're gonna get out of the box of chocolates that is Metro Manila traffic. The universe is being nice to you when you're rejected outright as a passenger. It's bordering on cruelty when you get a complainer like last night's...and there are many more types of worse cabbies.
Not counting almost all cab rides I've had in Baguio (where they give you your exact change automatically), probably the only outstandingly good memory I have of riding a cab was a month ago after I had just gotten back to Manila from my Siem Reap vacation. It was four in the morning and there were no more shuttles to Baclaran or the other airport terminals so I begrudgingly queued at the cab terminal above the one for the airport taxis. Thankfully, I got a cab driver who didn't greet me with how much he wanted his padagdag to be. He didn't stink of alcohol or human excrement, and he didn't feel the need to tell me his life story. He took me to Cubao at a daredevil speed, which I didn't mind, and his surprised reaction when I handed him P50 more than the final meter made me conclude he really deserved that tip. You know it's a twisted society we live in though when you have to tip someone for not making you feel awkward, not to mention telling you how much they'd like their tip to be, or that they even needed to be tipped in the first place.