Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Riding a Taxi Home

I do have my own accomplishment reports to do at the office, so this blog is for writing about my personal accomplishments. It is also to help me develop the discipline to write.

What I did and learned today may not be considered by others as accomplishments but I am writing primarily for myself, and I will declare what I consider personal victories or milestones, whether they are significant or not to others.

Riding a Taxi Home

At age 60, I still don't drive, so I am always at the mercy of those who do, whether they are family members (my husband John or my daughter Kathy) or the company driver who regularly drives for me. It’s not all that bad – I don’t have to be stressed by Manila’s notoriously undisciplined drivers, I can read or take a nap while stuck in traffic, I can enjoy the view when we are out in the country-side, I can make calls or sms without endangering myself or anybody else, I can eat and drink with a tray on my lap while the car moves, and best of all, I never have to worry about finding parking space. But, once in a while, when someone to drive for me is not available and I am in a place where public transportation is not dependable, I often feel helpless and I guarantee you, it is not a nice feeling.

Today, the driver was not available, as he had to drive for G-nie, our photographer, for a location shoot in Subic. I wanted to come home to Alabang and I was glad that Kathy also needed to be here. Unfortunately, she needed to have some prints made at the Alabang Town Center and to deliver the photos to her client right after. I didn't know whether I should wait for her or not. Since she didn't know either how long she would have to wait for the printing to be done – or for her client to meet her, I could be sitting in the car for a long time. Not an attractive prospect (especially since my computer did not have a battery – it was one of many that Apple recalled). Besides, the gardener, Soy, who comes once every two weeks, was waiting for transportation to get out of the village after a day’s work. It was 5:30pm and he needed to go home. I decided that I preferred to take my chances with public transportation.

In terms of accessibility, Ayala Alabang is the exact opposite of our other home on Bautista Street. All we need to do to get public transpo from our house and studio in Makati is to get out and stand in front of our gate or front door. There are buses, and taxis, not to mention those ubiquitous pedicabs, running there 24 hours a day.

On the other hand, I chose our house in Alabang precisely because it is away from the main street. It is quiet. Our curtains do not turn black with soot from exhaust of buses. All I hear is a symphony of the walis tingting of our maid sweeping away leaves on the street fronting our house, and of our neighbors’ maids doing the same.

But the price of living in a quiet neighborhood is the inconvenience of being dropped off at the town center, a good 4 kilometers from the house, without a clear idea of where to get the shuttle jeepneys that service the village. Our house is still 2 or 3 blocks from the nearest jeepney stop.

Leaving books and other packages in the car, I chose to just carry my computer. I was confident that I could find the jeepneys terminal. Security is tight and they strictly screen everyone coming in by public transportation so I looked into my wallet to make sure that I was carrying my village ID.

I walked through the car park and hesitated to approach the drivers who were waiting there. I was going to approach the person manning the teller’s booth to ask where the jeepneys terminal was located when I saw a vacant taxi on Madrigal Avenue, and decided it would be a better ride than a jeepney, which was nowhere in sight. I flagged it down, and asked if he would take me inside Ayala Alabang. “Of course, mam. That would be P150.00” “Isn’t that a bit high? I asked and planned to get off but I realized that taxis were scarce in the area – I have never seen a taxi even at the mall driveways- and my computer was getting to feel heavy in my arms.

Nevertheless, I needed to weigh my options so I asked him where the jeepney station was. He pointed to farther than where Kathy dropped me off, and I decided I didn’t want to walk that far. I had walked away from the jeepney station instead of towards it, and I didn’t want to take the chance of losing the only taxi that was available.

The taxi driver explained that the charge was high because he would not have any passengers on his way back. That made sense. Alabang residents, I suppose, have their cars, and the househelpers would not ride taxis. Besides, I remembered that the gardener could take the taxi on the way back, and that would make the fare fair.

I settled in and told the driver where to go. I queried the driver. Does he normally wait for passengers at that spot? Would he respond to a call, could he give me his cell phone number, would he fetch a passenger from inside the village, are there other taxis servicing the village, what hours does he drive his taxi, where else do they wait for passengers, does he know our street? Before we could reach the next block, I got all the information that I needed to get in and out of the village on my own – by taxi, plus a hint at where to find the jeepneys.

Soy and Jeanna, the maid, were in front of the house, looking partly surprised why I came in a taxi. I told Soy that the taxi would take him all the way to the jeepney terminal, that the fare had been paid, and that the security guard at the gate had been told that he would be riding in the taxi. I opened the front door and entered the house feeling proud of myself. I sms’ed Kathy that I was home, smiling to myself that I made it home in 5 minutes.

I found my way home using public transpo – well, sort of. I still have to learn how to ride the village jeepney, but I know I can do that. I am proud of what I learned today and more importantly, with Edgar’s cell phone number and all the information that I got from him, I can get in and out of Ayala Alabang in a taxi.

I don’t feel so helpless anymore about not knowing how to drive.