Saturday, May 22

Commuter Pipe Dreams

Commuter Pipe Dreams

Scene from a dream 1: Sorry it's a bit blurry. Just got it from a website. Scene from a dream 2: More evidence of not being people friendly. Shoo, go away! says the ticktock man. Scene from a dream 3: Ghosts in the machine. Boo!

Yesterday marked the end of my perfect-na-sana commuter dream: I had to stand up in the train taking me to Katipunan Avenue.

It wasn’t so bad. The trip took all of twenty minutes, and that’s because the line took an eternity to cross the very short Pureza to V. Mapa route, for what reason, I don’t know. It might have something to do with the bad weather and electricity lines, but this I know—by next week, I’ll really be standing on that train that now faintly smells of palengke.

It wasn’t like that before. At the start of summer classes, I heard the distinct roar of the train overhead, announcing that the LRT Line 2 had started its operations. So instead of traversing Sampaloc to get to España, a route which I took nearly everyday going into the end of the second sem, I opted to detour and have a little adventure into the unknown. I had myself delivered to the doorstop of the next train station.

The yellow line* stations are weird. First off, there are no kilometric counters at the ticket stations. In fact there are no ticket sellers—just vendo machines which require you to have the exact change for your fare, otherwise you will have to scrounge around for coins from strangers, or get the stored value tickets, which I always do. Saves you the trouble of lining up everytime. (Meanwhile, I currently tote around 2 SVTs so I'm waiting for the 3 lines, 1 ticket scheme to take place**.)Then you go up the stairs to the waiting area and you find out that there are no benches to sit on, and worse, there are no bathrooms! 3 strikes right there. I suspect that whoever designed these stations aren’t people-persons.

Inspite of those offenses, what I like is this, they have little marquees which announce how far off the train is from the station you’re in. “Santolan 10:30” means that the train just left and you will have to stand on your feet ten and a half minutes more. What I hate about this is that it takes nearly 11 minutes for the next train. What gives? The average MRT train wait is around 6 minutes in between. Again, whoever thought of this brilliant idea must want the commuters to stand around and admire the view. Which isn’t really much unless you’re curious about that flying saucer tower hovering over my old school (it’s just a tower with a UFO shaped thingie on top, duh) and the old, rusty metal tower from some old kalburo factory. Sta. Mesa isn’t really the best place for great views so better stare at your poor feet. What’s even more odd is that the security guards will point their shrilly whistles at you if you attempt to sit on/lean on their blasted iron railings. And oh, there's a notice saying that picture taking and shooting videos aren't allowed. As if. They should have just said we don’t like you, get off our trains.

Then the train comes and it’s one long purple caterpillar. The design’s actually nice and very ethnic looking. Inside it was very, very cold and no people! You could have an entire cab to yourself. The following week I had to share the cab with 2 other people, the next I had a bench to myself, then share it grudgingly, and before I knew it, there were actually people who obstruct my view of trees in New Manila! Argh!

I suppose I should be happy that people are actually riding in a mass transport system, but I just miss my quiet time. And that new car feel has been slowly obliterated and replaced by this faint palengke smell. I haven’t been to a wet market in a very long time but I still know that scent—vaguely muddy the way only fish aisles can be on any plain day. Oh sure those people never talk to you, they all just stare straight ahead or between their shoes, but I sure miss being the only person in that train. I can’t call it my train anymore.

The only good thing left is arriving at the Katipunan station, the only one that’s underground and somehow eeriely cavernous. The doors open and you walk ahead of everyone else so you could be first on the escalator. I don’t like crossing the streets now that pink barbwires are everywhere, so I walk to the other side, enjoying the few minutes where you are nowhere in time, no day, no night, just shadows. Then you stick in your magnetic card, pass the turnstiles, and get that whiff of warm air as you step up the escalators again, the glare of sun and concrete greeting you as the stairs deliver you to that jungle of vehicles crowding on the curb, spraying you with pollution, bless their souls, you are in a pedestrian world again.

*The train tickets say "yellow line" but the government claims it to be the "purple line" because of the train's design, I suppose. I call it yellow because the ticket is yellow, and the MRT's is blue. So there.

**But I'm still deliberating whether that's really convenient. The Flash Pass sells for Php250 on "Fridays to Sundays prior to the Monday which it takes effect." And you can only use it for a week. I'm afraid that's really very limiting. I don't use up the SVT 100 in a week. What more Php250. LRTA guys if you're reading this, please rethink that Flash Pass thing. Thank you.

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