While Stewing in a Jam

Going into the fifth months since we came back home from six years at post, and I’m going to be honest, and say that I am currently going through some “adjustments”. This as some of you might interpret as my nice way of saying that I am having a bit of a hard time.

While personal problems are always there and are of course a big factor, there is also of course readjusting to the way of life and/or everyday culture of being home that is different from the life that you inevitably gotten used to abroad. I mentioned this I think in one post where I said I tried my best not to get used to life in Muscat, because I knew that it would become a problem once I went back home, which was of course a definite point in the then future.

But it kind of snuck-up on me, perhaps because I found myself doing some interesting stuff when I was there that the comforts of life came to my advantage. Engrossed in all the projects I got myself into, as well as finding a new found interest in Research while finishing my Masters degree, I unconsciously took in the everyday things which were normal there, but unfortunately forgot that are not necessarily available or is the same back here in the Philippines.

For example, high-speed internet. I think it’s a well-known fact that my country has one of the slowest internet services available. JG and I don’t have cable or access to regular TV, we rely mostly on what we get online nowadays. I pay almost the same amount as I did back in Muscat, but there I get as much as 2-5 Mbps of unlimited broadband. But here, there are days when it’s just so frustratingly slow, that I wait in the wee hours of the night to get to watch stuff that I want to see. My other pet peeve, is that back in Muscat, there are of course extra charges, so sometimes you fall short paying 1 OMR (100 php) and they just subtly remind you to settle them by sending you a nice email or an SMS. But last month, I was short and paid 100 php less of what was charged, and sure enough the phone company cut off our connection unless I made sure to pay that 100 measly pesos, for the internet speed that is sub-par than what we paid for. Those are moments when the reality sinks in that you are definitely not in Muscat anymore.

But that’s just one minor example. Another part of life here at home that really stresses me out, is of course traffic and ridiculous driving culture that we seemed to have developed. First let me make it clear that there are many other things that I love about being home. (Blog posts to follow. I promise.) But to be able to do one thing you of course have to get from one point to another. I love commuting as well, but there are instances when you really have to take out the car, but I now often find myself actually opting to stay home and miss out on all the great stuff I could be enjoying here in my country simply because it’s too stressful to go out and brave the roads of Manila.

In Muscat of course, heavy traffic flow rarely happens (sometimes only when there are accidents or road constructions), mainly because since the population there is very low compared to Manila, congestion isn’t a big concern. Okay, before I left I think it was beginning to be a problem, but traffic there is still relatively bearable, unlike here where life can truly pass you by, getting stuck for three hours for what should be just 45 minutes to take.

Part of the problem of course is the undisciplined form of driving etiquette that we have here. I remember writing about this in a previous post when I mentioned that here in Manila, sometimes road rules are subjective and road signs are suggestions which you may or may not choose to follow depending on the probability of getting caught. But what sets off the road rage in me is the lack of respect drivers have for each other. Cutting-in or changing lanes without as much as a signal, suddenly stopping for whatever reason, and parking/turning/maneuvering without a thought if whether or not you’ll be getting in someone’s way or causing a delay or worst an accident is just really rude, I dare say even stupid.

This is a normal thing where it's every man for himself.  Picture from: http://pinoytransplant.com/2013/01/02/driving-rules-for-metro-manila-a-primer-for-the-uninitiated/

This is a normal thing where it’s every man for himself.
Picture from: http://pinoytransplant.com/2013/01/02/driving-rules-for-metro-manila-a-primer-for-the-uninitiated/

I thought about this a lot, as I sat there stewing my anger in a jam that seemed to last forever, and I think that it’s probably because we have come to the point that each of us have this mindset that before this other guy gets one up on me, I probably should get ahead of him. I think and hope Filipino drivers aren’t by nature @8&#o73s (sorry about that), we are just afraid that everybody else is and so we do what we can not to be goody-goody driver who always gets cut-off on just because you choose to maintain the proper distance between you and the car ahead giving the one to your side the chance to get ahead when your lane starts to move forward leaving you there unable to do so. (#notnecessarilyme #hypothetically #hugot).

So I am left there asking myself, should I become like everybody else and just throw away whatever ethical driving I once thought was the rule of the road, in order for me to survive and move ahead? And if I did, does that mean I become part of the problem? Do I become like the idiots who refuse to stay in one lane, so they can have better access to the one that moves forward in heavy traffic?

There is also the fact that although proper driving rules and regulations you get from schools or when you’re preparing for your licensure exam, the culture of driving is mainly learned when you go out there and gain experience from fellow drivers. So what happens when all you’ll see is blatant neglect for the rules? Naturally you’d think that that’s okay too, even though you were explicitly told that that’s not cool, not to mention life threatening; simply because you see it done every day, without any hesitation, adherence, or at least the decency to consider the safety of fellow drivers and pedestrians around you. Sometimes I find myself questioning whether what I did was legal or not, simply because although I remember learning in driving school that it’s illegal, I see it as a common occurrence so perhaps it really isn’t.

It’s one thing not to get caught when you do it, but what does that say about you as a person? When I encounter such drivers, and when I get the chance or see the person behind the wheel, whether it be a little old lady in a Kia Picanto or a brusque man in a big Toyota Fortuner, I wonder if they have the same manners in everyday life as they do in driving.

A friend once said that because you truly hone your defensive driving skills when you learn to do it in Manila, you will find yourself easily be able to drive anywhere. He kind of said it in a proud way, like being hardened because you grew up in a tough neighborhood. But I am not so sure… I’m afraid that after I leave again, I might bring with me this warped sense of driving culture, where almost anything goes, and respect is left in the dust.


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