Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Bus boy

Perfect timing, just when I'm about to forfeit the use of a company-issued car, I see the news and there it is, a bus exploding. My favorite form of public transport is under attack. Apparently, not so many people share my love city buses.

Before the bombing, there was all the attacks against buses plying EDSA, the city's main thoroughfare. They were the leading cause of traffic and pollution, it was said too many times and a as result, were subjected to the vehicle reduction scheme implemented on private vehicles and taxis. One friend of mine even goes as far to declare that the city should be rid of all buses to finally solve the traffic and pollution problems, on her facebook page. That wall post got a lot of likes and positive comments.

Here's a picture of bus traffic, to give a fair picture of why she's ranting about buses:

If you happen to agree with my friend or generally hate buses, be warned that in the following sentences I will be defending the noble and hard-working city buses. So if you hate them and doubt that your opinion of them would ever change, then you may stop now and save yourself the grief.


It was the year 1990 when I first faced the prospect of commuting to high school on a daily basis. I was in my second semester of freshman high school, which was also the year that I discovered a love for arcade games. However, the only chance that I had to play them was right after school at the mall, which kinda interfered with the carpool schedule. So I ditched the carpool and had taken up the courage to commute to and from school via the bus.

The bus ride to school from our house was a daily 15-20 minute ordeal. The chances of me getting a seat were minimal as I hopped on the bus right smack in the middle of its route between two commercial business districts, but that didn't really bother me too much. The free time that it afforded me to stay out longer after classes was enough to justify the temporary hassle. It was real cheap, too which meant more tokens to burn at the arcade on my limited allowance. Thus came the start of my love for these city buses.

Of course, there were dangers, I'll admit. Every so often, you get to sit or stand beside some weirdo who didn't think it necessary to take a shower more than once a week. Pedophiles and exhibitionists also presented themselves every couple of months, and con men or 'snatchers' were a constant threat. There were also times when you boarded an air-conditioned bus without the benefit of air-conditioning (but still paid the premium rates, anyway) or those that still had those really uncomfortable hardwood seats from the sixties. But really, what is life without all these dangers every once in a while anyway? What I mean to say is that in the big bad third world, you're bound to run into such "inconveniences" more often that you would like, anyway, whether inside a dilapidated bus or elsewhere.

So at the onset of my bus-boarding life, I learned to take everything in stride, and accept that good things get balanced out with the bad. This went on for the next 4 years of high school, generally without much incident.

Things started to change a bit in college, during which time I got my driver's license. I spent less time at the bus stop and more borrowing my dad's car. The commute also changed, from the 15-20 minute ride to my high school, to the 30-45 minute ordeal to the university. Taking the bus now required a more deliberate effort to be early, so I preferred taking the car. Plus, driving a car to school, it was said, instantly gave you a higher status with the ladies. (Which in retrospect, didn't really work for me all those years. Crap.) Still, the bus was a viable option, a bit more inconvenient than having your own car, but still an option.

Then, as I found myself overstaying in college, came the dawn of a new era in third-world public transport, the metro rail or MRT. This elevated form of transport was far superior in delivering people from point A to point B than the buses, owing to its ability to zoom above the snarly traffic of EDSA. Travel time was slashed from 45 minutes to 20. By this time, whenever my dad decided to ground me from using his car (which was real often considering my penchant for getting home in the wee hours of the early morning drunk or already hung over), I used the MRT to go to school. Despite this, however, I still took the bus home. Sure, it took a heck of a lot longer, but the homeward commute wasn't as urgent anyway. Plus, it afforded me the luxury of time to daydream, or at least let my drunkenness pass by the time I came knocking at the door. ("Why the hell do you smell like a friggin' bar?", "Oh I sat beside a homeless dude on the bus. *hic* That must be it. *hic*") The MRT is also not without hassles, most notably it deprives me of my right to personal space (at times even breathing space) for all of those 20 minutes.

Fast forward to the present, acne's all cleared up and with no more curfews. I'm no longer using my dad's car so he doesn't get to ground me anymore. I also rarely use the bus as it's way inconvenient, having to take 3 transfers, walking in the 80% humidity of the tropics to the succeeding stations which gets me to my office 40 kilometers away.

Of course, driving on city roads in the middle of rush hour is definitely no picnic, and I've had my share of flicking the bird at one too many bus drivers. They're big, they stop a lot, and they're prone to belch out black smoke from their over-worked diesels. But do I declare that they're the source of all this traffic and pollution? Well, no. Here's why:

If I count the number of vehicles on the road, there are far fewer buses than private vehicles. Sure, they may be big and bothersome and clunky, but each holds around 40 people. Most of these private vehicles, including my own, hold only one. So it might be safe to assume that those people bitching about how evil buses are, take up an awful lot of space on the road with their big-ass SUV or underutilized cars relative to how many people they actually move.

To futher my point:

See how many people wait for buses and or other modes of public transportation? Imagine how traffic and pollution gets even worse if we give each one of them an Escalade.


Sorry for whining and bitching, folks. I guess I just needed to mentally prepare myself to take the bus on a regular basis in the near future. It's not really convenient, but I don't really have much of a choice, do I?

I can hear someone at the back, saying why don't I use a bicycle. Well shut up cause I've already thought about it, you tree-hugging, fossil-fuel hating environmentalist prick! It's just not optimal for me. I'm sort of prone to sweating, and living in the tropics, where it's well over 30 degrees Celsius for most of the year with 80% humidity, means riding a bike to work for 20 minutes will give the person sitting next to me hell for the whole damn day. Besides, have you seen the size of those buses? I don't really want to get run over by them. I love 'em, but I don't wanna get to get that close to them on a flimsy little two-wheeler.


Chipper said...

By the way, pictures grabbed from google. Didn't get a chance to note who took them, though. Sorry.

Walking on Water said...

I almost thought you already got yourself a camera. In fact, I was supposed to comment, wow, hap, nice shots! buti na lang.