How Do You Explain Anger

At a very young age, kids do start to feel and experience a lot of emotions, anger included. When present within their environment, anger could be absorbed by their very innocent minds and it starts to build up ready to be expressed when the right time comes. This we learned recently.

Days after our car got rear-ended by a motorcycle, Marcus asked his mother, “Mommy, why does daddy get angry when driving?” I didn’t ask my wife whether our son used the adverb ‘sometimes’ or ‘always’ to describe the frequency but the news struck me—and I seem to know the answer anyway.  Marcus who has been allowed on the front passenger seat since he turned seven was not only there to enjoy the view but was after all observing my emotions as well.  Driving must be making people angry so for this same reason he does not want to drive in the future anymore.

I have not offered an explanation to our son since I heard about his observation and conclusion regarding my bad driving habit. However, I all of a sudden have my late New Year resolution declared within me that I should start changing how I drive—at the very least, when he is around—so I could convince him back that driving could be a pleasant experience. If he could actually drive soon is another matter.

“Daddy, I won’t be able to drive.” I heard him say when I allowed him one day to sit on his own on the driver seat while parked. “I still have short legs, can’t reach the pedals yet,” he added. I smiled and said, “Not now, but soon.” I was suppressing sadness, I was telling him a lie.

Driving will be the least of his worries when Marcus gets older. His dystrophy is taking its toll on his mobility and what was once a simple task of standing and staying still is presently becoming more of a challenge. I can see his frustrations often. Last night, I heard his sentiment myself.

“I am angry at God.” A statement he once told his mother, he said it again immediately after we had our regular night prayer. Like a shot of espresso, such short yet strong statement got me back on my senses away from a progressing sleepy state. Time seems to go slow as my mind processes what it heard while at the same tries to recall every plausible explanation it could get from what I learned in Catholic school and from the homilies in the masses I have attended. How on earth am I going to explain and defend God to this child who regularly prays before he goes to bed?

Well my wife and I had something. That God has plans for everyone and everything happens for a reason. That to feel angry at his present condition is perfectly normal but he must understand and keep his faith that God does look after him.  It does sound cliché but it was the most rational we can muster at that very moment. We hope that as Marcus grows up and continues to have more questions in life we also strengthen our faith so that when we will have better and convincing answers. Answers that are real, answers that we know aren’t lies.

***

No pictures for now, will not waste time waiting for Photobucket to load. We’re getting a passport of Marcus.

***

Mood: 2/10 Honks! (Heading to DFA Alabang)

Enter the Exit

“Daddy, that’s exit! Wrong way yan!” protests Marcus upon seeing the big EXIT sign as I make a turn to the Greenfield toll gate during a recent trip to Nuvali. Wow, the kid has a point. Among the confusing road signs that we have (which we have a lot by the way) here in our country is the EXIT. Why? Can you recall seeing a toll gate sign that says ENTRANCE? Well, I may not have been paying attention but I can’t remember seeing one.

And I am not alone because I know a lot of drivers would agree. For example, “to go to SLEX (South Luzon Expressway), use the Carmona EXIT,” “If you’re coming from Batangas, you can go to Festival Mall via the Alabang EXIT” are just two examples of common direction instructions that mention EXIT whether that’s coming from or going to the expressway way. Either way, we just neither have an Alabang ENRANCE nor an SLEX ENTRANCE. So can we blame kids as young as Marcus to have the impression that their dads who have been their role models of a good driver—all the others are irresponsible, aren’t they?—are now obviously violating a traffic rule?

The immediate answer of course would be to explain it to them. But would it be plain and simple? I doubt it. It would take some more road trips, and similar you-are-wrong objections, before we can finally make them accept that what they have seen on the ‘opposites’ segment of their educational videos do not apply all the time. Yes, the opposite of ENTRANCE is EXIT but for some reason people who designed the toll gates didn’t consider that there will be parents with mini backseat drivers, who will start to learn how to read, and who will sooner or later question why in the world is his father entering a way with a big and clear exit sign. Good luck to us.

To all dads who will be on the road, happy father’s day! And I hope you don’t miss the exit…or entrance…to your destination.

***

Mood: 3/10 Honks! (Got a mini LED key chain with my name on it as father’s day gift from wifey. Yesterday, Marcus gave me a car. Toy car.)

Blindness Falls

Darkness is the absence of light…and blindness is the presence of a oncoming vehicle on high beam.

***

The long wait for the part has come to an end. More than a month after my low beam conked out because of a faulty headlight switch, I got the call from my Honda service advisor informing me about the replacement part’s availability. And with this, the people whom I usually meet while on their way back home from a tiring work day will now be so grateful not to have another blinding encounter. To the tired engineers driving their cars, factory workers riding their underbones, Tagaytay-bound party goers, jeepney drivers, tricycle backseat passengers, village security guards, toll booth workers, and others — pedestrians, street dogs, and stray cats included — whom I have blinded, my sincerest apology. I had no choice but to drive on full high beam. Contact a Honda engineer for more explanation why its part no. 35255-S5A-A12 failed before its fifth year.

***

If it’s any consolation, I saw the light — my low beam light — again on 12/12/12.

***

Mood: 2/10 Honks! (Guilt-free driving again.)

(Book Review) Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do

Image taken from Google Books

We have all heard it and will likely continue to hear about it: “We Filipinos are bad drivers…no, we are the worst.” “If you have driven in the Philippines, you can drive anywhere in the world.” These and similar other statements about driving in the Philippines have made us stereotype ourselves and in effect made most of us think that the rest of the world drive in an orderly fashion than we do. But wait, this could not be entirely true at all.

If the author Tom Vanderbilt is to be believed, there a lot others out there who are worse than us and our perennial bad traffic flow – and yes, believe it or not, perceived by many as where traffic laws are fully enforced, the US is included. According to his book Traffic, Why We Drive the Way We Do, bad drivers can be found allover the globe and continue to contribute to road congestion, road rage, and accidents, not to mention stress, just to name a few ill effects of the growing volume of cars and other vehicles that are present at one time in one place.

I got my copy of Tom’s book only after two years since the day I learned about its release and it was only because it was on sale in National Bookstore by half its original price. But sooner I realized that the P300 plus I paid for it is a real steal because the 400-page paperback has a lot more to offer than expected. As I progress from one page to another, it stomps out that know-it-all and I-drive-a-lot-better-than-you premise I have had and which I am sure that other drivers possess as well.

Aside from rich facts about relationship (or lack thereof) of man, machine, and the road, almost each chapter of the book contains information never been made known to common drivers. For example, are you aware that car designers, other than complex mathematical algorithms, also have to deal with factors such human psychology and pop culture to cope up with the growing demand for mobility, thus the need for cars, and its effect to traffic?

“Traffic has become a way of life. The expanding cup holder, which became fully realized standard equipment only in the 1980s, is now the vital enabler of dashboard dining…Fast-food restaurants now clock as much as 70 percent of their sales at drive-through windows…” (page 16)

How would you feel if someone presents to you the idea that road signs invite people to violate it more and that by removing these will improve drivers’ behavior?

“Do traffic signs work, and are they really needed at all? This question has been raised by Hans Monderman…How foolish are we in always telling people how to behave. When you treat people like idiots, they’ll behave like that.” (page 190)

And did you know that our balikbayan relatives could be actually lying every time they smirk in the backseat and follow it up with that famous cliché “walang ganito sa states….”? Why? Because Tom Vanderbilt also exposes the US as having its own share of jaywalkers (Why New Yorkers Jaywalk (and Why they Don’t in Copenhagen: Traffic as Culture); traffic light-beating drivers; and motorcycle riders who shun helmet laws.

Released in 2008, Traffic, Why We Drive the Way We Do, contains vast insights, supported by references and citations, about traffic and therefore makes it a must read book for all of us who continue to wonder what causes bad traffic and if there are indeed solutions to it or if there is none, at least change our own perspective of how we and others drive so that we co-exist better than we do today.

***

Mood: 3/10 Honks! (We’ll be in Nuvali later. Driving with or without the low beam.)

My Own Share of Driver’s Bad Luck

Drive home this morning was eventful. Firstly, I arrived at the toll area with a truck that has just slammed into the opposite toll gate’s concrete barriers and its driver, who appears drunk or sleepy, still arguing with the authorities as if they’re the ones at fault. Then unknowingly I lined up behind someone who, according to the security guard, picked the wrong exit to enter (have you ever realized that either way, a toll gate is always called an EXIT?) and refuses to move out thus requiring me reverse back to transfer to another gate (I have this habit of not tailgating so I was out real quick) . And as if to share the misfortunes of the others, my headlights conked out while I was waiting my turn to cross an intersection — thankfully, dawn is already breaking that time. Ti abi. Not call center TGIF day.

***

I searched the web and found a good DIY link that could help me save P4,000 in headlight switch replacement — parts and labor. I’ll find out later.

***

Four-year-old Boy in the Backseat

I booked my sister’s family online for their flight to Bacolod and the mistake I made when I finalized the transaction with the wrong departure date requires me to go to PAL’s ticket office in NAIA Terminal 2 to get the revised ticket and pay for the additional fee in the process. But rather than fret about that costly mistake, which I did while sleepy thus missing the most important detail, I considered it as a blessing in disguise. What I initially plan to do by taking public transport alone and recovering my lack of sleep inside a cozy bus and taxi to the airport office, became a trip with me behind the wheel and wifey and Marcus tagging along. We haven’t been together in a mall for a leisurely visit so this one made a trip to MOA justifiable.

During the 30-kilometer trip, Marcus has been talking non-stop, asking repetitive questions. “Where’s the airport?”, “Are we near the airport?”, “Where is MOA?”, “Why are we turning here, not there?” had me and wifey exchange turns to give the same answer. However, other than these are-we-there-yet inquiries, there were those that we don’t know where to get the answers from and there was one that had both of us skipped a heartbeat. We’ve been preparing for the question and I really once thought that I will be ready when that time comes but yesterday I realized that I am not. What a four year-old boy can do. A special four year-old boy in the backseat.

***

The reason I got the idea of taking a side trip to MOA is because Marcus had told his mother that he wants to go biking again in MOA and the last time we did this was more than two years ago when we participated in a fun run for a cause. So despite doing it in the evening, and with me restraining myself not to grab something alcoholic from one of the nearby bars and restos and which I know that wifey has another idea of a night out, Marcus successfully got his wish and pedaled his way in the midst of the crowd enjoying the colorful night in SM by the Bay.

***

Marcus tweets

Starting today, I will use #4yointhebackseat to tweet about things (hopefully amusing ones) Marcus will say (or have said) while in the backseat. I once started #nurserylog which are about his school days but unfortunately I cannot retrieve the first ones. I am now wondering if there’s some application I can use to import a particular hash tag to my blog and to archive it as well.

***

Mood: 3/10 Honks (Anxiety coming back.)

The two sides of the story behind a car accident

It takes two to tango” – Anonymous

 

The Monday morning and prime time news is filled with news about accidents, most of it tragic, involving motorized vehicles. While watching it on TV I can’t do anything but shake my head in disappointment that once again, lives have been wasted and worse, others are lost just because someone failed to drive safely – especially nowadays that rain has made our already bad roads more perilous to drive at. All these pictures of wreckage, twisted metals and bodies, blood and grief sent flashbacks of my own bad memories.

I personally had experienced a costly driving accident that hounded my wife and I for days, even weeks. Although obviously the fault was ours, it could have been avoided by the other driver. That split-second collision played over and over again in my mind like a bad sports replay. Even with the lack of surround cameras, I can almost imagine what took place from all angles. And as much as I’d like to forget it and move forward, I can’t help but still think about so many what ifs and only ifs: If only there were no blind spots; if only my wife didn’t cross the next lane; if only the involved tricycle driver drove cautiously knowing that he’ll pass by a busy village entrance. If only he had braked just in time. What if we weren’t used to wearing our seat belts? What if the tricycle driver went completely through his windshield. I could only ask these questions and more, and yet not even receive definite answers. And even if they won’t admit it, I’m quite sure that the other party had their own regrets as well.

Just like that personal story, so much similar incidents happened and sadly, still keeps on happening as if most of us don’t learn from the repetitive news. Let’s take a look at the recent accidents that we have either witnessed right in front of us or just saw on the news. More often than not, we’ll see that each driver will try to reason out and give their very best to point the immediate blame to the other. It is also very likely that each party will claim that they have the right of way and that one didn’t yield as expected. It is always a hopeless and frustrating battle of one’s word against the other but the real truth behind it all is that the accident won’t happen had ONLY one honestly practiced defensive driving.

It appears though that more of this will continue to occur if we don’t do something about it – like having the common sense. With the traffic volume almost increasing every year, despite the recession, it is expected that travel time will increase, people will rush, drivers will become impatient and in effect become more aggressive. It is when rush hour ironically becomes a time when traffic slows down and it is also when people’s heads get hot sometimes even hotter than their idling engines and it is these hot heads that will likely to blow off steam way ahead of their car’s overheating radiators.

So with such condition making a perfect brew for an accident, a fender bender at the very least, it is usually hard to pinpoint who actually was at fault. It is easy though to have our own prejudice take over. For example, an innocent looking female yuppie is likely to get the sympathy (normally from curious crowds AKA uzis) over a ragged looking jeepney driver during a traffic accident investigation. Likewise, it is also easy to direct anger to someone who has hit a pedestrian than to ask why the pedestrian crossed a non-ped xing zone in the first place.

For me, who has been into an accident, I fully understand that when accidents such as these happen, there are always two sides of the story to be heard – that is, if one is lucky enough to survive it and be able to share his. But whatever the reasons are, one thing will remain clear and certain; that whatever the results of the investigations (and media coverage) are, during these times there aren’t any winners but only losers coming from both sides. So let’s all help preserve life (ours and others) while on the road by driving safely, by driving responsibly.

 

Photo credit:

Brave Heart (from Flickr’s Creative Commons)

 

Mood: 3/10 Honks!  

 

Being a Gas Miser

It seems that gas price hike will be here for quite a while for reasons that the average person like me will never really know. Factors such as the Middle East’s peace and order situation; the US recession which until now Dubya haven’t directly accepted to be happening; China’s sudden demand for automotive as most Chinese got tired of riding bikes – it’s a pity but sooner or later obesity will be as common as dumplings in China; locally, we can blame our government for deregulating the oil companies – but this is debatable. These are just a few of things that caused the soaring oil prices.

So while we are busy thinking and picking who’s supposed to be blamed other than ourselves, it may be just right for us to start looking at the mirror and check if we’ve done our part to alleviate the effect of this situation which is way out of our control. Not only that we get to save our pockets and wallets, we also get to save our sanity and most importantly, our environment.

And so today, as I’m lazily surfing the web, my mouse led me to Ecomodder.com which has this article, “104 hypermiling / ecodriving tips …” And guess what? I’ve been doing most of their tips already. And so I grabbed my own top 10 so that others may learn as well.

1) Drive less. Avoid driving if you can. Just think about the heavy traffic you’ll encounter on your way and this will help convince you.

2) Track your fuel consumption. Take a conscious effort to track your fuel mileage. Our Honda City’s digital Trip A and Trip B meter is a big help when it comes to this. By the way, please, track your consumption when you get home. You don’t want to run over pedestrians or other cars while fiddling with your calculator.

3) Leave early and don’t rush. It’s funny but I’ve been thinking of doing this yet. Having a car makes most of us think that we can hit the snooze alarm a couple of times in the morning with the assurance that we can beat time to work by driving like a crazy Takuma Sato. But this shouldn’t be the case I realize just now. This is a No-Win situation: You get irritated because you expect everyone to rush just like you do, and you get to pump unnecessary gas in the process.

 

4) Note your transition points. Ecomodder says, “If you regularly travel the same roads, make a conscious effort to note (memorize) the points along the way where transitions occur that maximize efficiency”. By doing so, you can actually plan where to safely coast (if I remember it right, I read that it is illegal to coast in some states in the US), anticipate turns and brake points.

5) Avoid drive-thrus. This is to avoid idling. Save on gas. Save on fast foods.

6) Windows up. This is a no-brainer in the Philippines. Here spitting is not a crime. Do I need to explain further? Hahaha. Just my reason for driving windows up, but it has something to do with aerodynamics/wind drag which has an effect on the gas mileage; and of course back to the spitting thing.

7) Heavy traffic: play the accordion. Ecomodder says, “If faced with worst-case “stop & crawl” traffic conditions, leave as much space ahead of you as possible and continually “accordion” that space to keep your vehicle moving near a constant speed while the cars in front of you stop & start.   

Yes, some people will cut into the space you create ahead of you. Deal with it. 

Note that this may aggravate following drivers who can’t absorb the big picture, and that must be taken into account.” Well, I’ll try to deal with it. No promises though.

 

8 ) Minimize air conditioning use. Ecomodder says, “Air conditioning requires a lot of power. Use it sparingly”. Once again, AC on or off, don’t forget to keep those windows up. Believe me; you’ll thank me for this tip once you get to drive here in the Philippines.
 
9) Be smooth. I think I qualify as one. Just don’t ask the jeepney drivers I’ve honked at which brings me to my top 10.

 

10) Don’t keep up with the Joneses. Ecomodder says, “It [sic] easy to be competitive when driving. Resist knee-jerk retaliation to other drivers’ aggressive actions. Don’t let other drivers lead you astray from your driving style.” Now this is more like a test of my character rather than a test to save gas. The pinoy Joneses are the hari ng kalsada (king of the roads) – your “friendly” jeepney/tricycle drivers. I guess I’ll be able to keep up with this tip if I leave home early to work.

 

There you go. Let’s save gas the rational way and please stop sending me emails to boycott the giant oil companies – it’s foolish, it’s temporary and it just won’t work.

reference: Ecomodder.com

 

Pride No More

“One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” – Anonymous

“The power to surprise” – Kia

Today we have to let go of our pride, literally. Well at least just our 1998 (GTX)Kia Pride anyway. After having it for 3 years, 10 months and 27 days we decided to let go of it. For whatever reason, hopefully I can blog (and brag?) about it soon. Fingers crossed here.

And just like any old car owner, we had our own share of ups and downs with it. It was like a driving guinea pig for both my wife and I.

Here are some of the things we both experienced and learned from our blue jalopy:

1. We’ve had a couple of encounters with the “third” kind in it. Tricycles, at least. The second one was the bloodiest and needless to say costliest. We’ve learned a couple of lessons from that experience. Lesson 1: check, check, & check before making a turn. Lesson 2: Power steering makes sense. Lesson 3: Student drivers should be accompanied by professional drivers. (If it weren’t for this mistake, we could have claimed insurance then.) Lesson 4: Tricycles doesn’t have shatter proof windshields or seatbelts (duh!). Lesson 5: Have a decent clothing even on short trips (At least you look good while in the Emergency Room).

2. I realized I need not have a Subaru, Citroen or a Ford Focus and neither should I be somewhere in a dirt nor a snow track to experience rally driving. I got that adrenaline rush with my wife on the wheel and just somewhere in Alabang. That one scared the sh*t out of me so to speak.

3. My wife learned that Kia Prides are 4X4’s in disguise when she made the front wheels climb up a parking gutter while parking. And if it weren’t for the tree in front of it, the rear wheels could have made it as well. At this point I’m starting to think she might do well not only in Rally driving but 4X4 jungle challenges as well. Hmm.

4. Who would have thought that a house door panel will end up on top of a car? Not even us. But it did. A wooden door being sold just at the road side unfortunately got loose from the workers’ grip and slammed right in front of the passenger’s “A” pillar. Now, every time I hear the F1 racing’s host says “…and Hamilton, shuts the door on Alonso…”, at least I know exactly how it feels.

5. Cheap MP3 players damages engine. Please email me for details (cpn05@yahoo.com) as this is a long story. I should have thrown it out the first time it skipped.

6. And related to number 5, electrical smoke smells nasty and so it really pays to have a fire extinguisher inside your car.

7. Once we worked in tandem while in it. It was when we witnessed an accident involving a scooter rider who went under a dump truck. Upon seeing that there’s no way I can revive the victim, I decided to chase the erring driver. During the high-speed (as I’d like to believe. It makes a good blog) chase I was the one driving while my wife was on the phone calling the police. Despite the seriousness of the problem at that time, I actually imagined putting up a blinking police light (too much TV?) while initiating the chase. In the end the escaping driver was apprehended. Lesson learned: It does pay to have the police’s contact numbers in your cellphone. You never know when you need one.

Even with those adventures (or misadventures) the comfort we had with that car still obviously outnumbered the discomfort – with regular maintenance. We’ve been to places with it, at our own pace, and in our own time. It was even with us during most of our domestic and international travels (of course, just until Park and Fly).

So just this morning, I gave Wilddog (as we call it) its one last car wash with us, cleaned the interiors and readied every thing for the next owner. And a couple of car honks later signaled its departure from our home.

We both will miss her.

The Ship is Sinking…

After almost a week of rainfall (due to tropical storm Chedeng) I was amazed to see the sun shine yesterday. So instead of settling on my seat and trying to get some sleep while on the bus to work, I opened the curtains and tried to savor the afternoon sun beams.

I was anticipating an interesting ride all the way and was already imagining a beautiful sun setting on the horizon turning its color from golden to red-orange. Sadly it wasn’t meant to be. Even if it did, I didn’t notice it anyway.

My daydream unfortunately turned neither to fantasy nor romantic. The sun beams instead opened my eyes to a depressing sight just a couple of meters from departure at the bus stop until I eventually got to work.

It was actually not the first time that I’ve been pondering on the state of our country every time I’m on my way to work. But yesterday I had a handful. Sadly, a handful of bad observations that made me ask the endless why.

At the first intersection the green lights turned to red. I saw the pedestrian overpass’ construction is almost coming to its completion. And just while I was about to ask the cliché, “Will it ever be used?” a familiar ambulance siren grabbed my attention. Well, someone must be hurt. “God bless him”, I softly uttered (as I usually do every time I hear one coming). The wish though was done too soon. It wasn’t an ambulance but it was coming from scooter driver who sped by and turned left ignoring the red light and the police nearby. What’s more depressing, the police didn’t even made a fuss about it. Not even a radio call for help or assistance to apprehend the erring driver. But then again, he may not even have a radio (or the balls to do so) on hand – ill equipped that is.

A couple of kilometers after the trip resumed, a colorful bunch of things came into view outside my window. I would really have wished it were blooming flowers but again, in reality it’s not. It was a pile of plastic bags & trashes irresponsibly tossed (and accumulated) on one corner of the road. Is poverty a good reason for this insensitive act? I just don’t think so.

I thought I was uncontrollably shaking my head in disgust when I realized it was actually the bus bouncing and weaving left and right of the road to avoid the potholes. Damn. One week of rain made all these? Blame it on the rain then? Milli Vanilli could have done that but not me. I’ve been honestly paying taxes and I know where and when (not before and during the election) some of it should be spent. Most likely somewhere out there, another politician and/or contractor must be happily drinking booze and probably counting their kickback. Screw the road. Cheers!

As if all those weren’t enough, we got stuck in traffic. Another intersection may be? Breathe in, breathe out. Stay calm. But it’s not. Just outside I saw several public jeepneys on the opposite lane idling and vying for passengers unmindful of the long queue of other vehicles behind them. So why is our lane stuck too? That’s because another mindless driver from that queue felt smart enough to counter flow. And surprisingly he isn’t a jeepney driver. He’s driving a shining Honda. He’s smartly dressed. I rest my case.

If it weren’t for the seatbelt and the person beside me the preceding event would have sent me into a yoga stance right then and there. Now where is my golden sun? It’s getting dark outside. Figuratively and literally.

The sky outside was overcast when we reached the front gate of our company’s campus. Despite the poor lighting the worsening condition of the facilities didn’t escape my eye. (In photography, enthusiasts use filters and lenses to capture what they want to achieve. My eye and mind yesterday was like that. Only I didn’t do that on purpose. It was as if I have a “bad” filter that was meant to see…well, “bad” things.) Paints are peeling off, roofs are rusting, and the once regularly well-trimmed lawn has weeds coming out from everywhere.

The people themselves changed a lot since then. I can count the people who got off the bus with enthusiasm to work for yet another day. The contractors around are working with incomplete PPEs. And a lot of bad sentiments are present anywhere I go. Something is just so wrong. Something must be done.

I got into some discussion with my co-workers about this and there was one phrase mentioned that struck me the most. “The boat is sinking”. Probably it is. Sadly, I’m in it.

I’m sending an SOS.