Keep Your Sanity: Learn How To Drive In Tight Spaces

(Image from Wendell on Flickr CC.)

Anyone who watches TV or listens to the news on the radio cannot help but mostly capture bad news. We crave for inspiring ones yet these news are all over: bad governance, overpriced ‘world-class’ buildings, questionable police integrity, bad celebrity role models, bad this and that, etcetera. Then there’s of course bad traffic jam. The good news is, we can do something about how we drive so as not to contribute to the ever worsening traffic. What we need is to learn how to adapt in tight situations.

Truth to be told, I have been driving for about ten years already but it was only last year when I learned how to drive in tight spots. Thanks to this cake that I had to get from a place with the narrowest streets I have been so far, so narrow that I almost turned back and decided to take public transport instead just to bring home the Ninjago-inspired cake for our son, Marcus.

Idling and weighing my options, with my right hand about to put the stick shift to reverse in surrender, I noticed that despite being tight several cars are parked on one side of the street. Unbelievably, none of those cars seem to have those tell-tale scratches. “How do the other vehicles able to get in and out of the place without sideswiping the others? Do they shrink or do they have soft fenders made just for this place?” I mused.

And then, as if to answer my question I saw one SUV drive out. It was quick, it was without any incident. If it fits, then my sedan can too. There was hope.

After making sure that there are no more vehicles I commit to drive and make my way through. As I have expected, it wasn’t easy. But to cut the story short, I got the cake and made way back. How did I fare? Well, it took me almost 30 minutes to get in and out of the rather short distance.

Driving out was harder because I have to back up and turn around—back to the same narrow street. The 2-point reverse maneuver didn’t work, not even 4-point. Almost static, my hands, feet, and eyes got busy—clutch, shift, gas, mirror, clutch, shift, gas, mirror— just so I can squeeze the car out without leaving any dent on it and the other cars parked nearby. By the way, I had to fold one side mirror just to be sure.

Other than getting out unscathed, that stressful experience improved my depth and width perception.  In fact, I have had fewer encounters of what I once consider near misses. Inner two-way roads have worried me less and have lessened my urge to honk my way through. (Lately, whenever I honk, it’s just force of habit—a bad habit that I hope to correct soon.)

To drive comfortably and confidently in tight spaces is a skill to be had to keep our sanity. Especially with the fast approaching holiday everyone should anticipate worse (or worst) traffic. People, cars, and other types of vehicles will have to be dealt with because tight traffic will become tighter, slow will become slower but with a better driving skill these shouldn’t be a problem. Happy and safe driving everyone!

***

Yesterday, we fell victim to another bad traffic–and bad time management. We were supposed to attend a baptismal celebration just to find out that we took the route where Maynilad have extended their water pipe overlaying project. Wifey and I ended getting a massage in SM Bacoor with Marcus left to play with other kids in a  pay-per-hour playground.

Yes my son, The Ninja Turtles don’t like donuts.

***

Mood: 1/10 Honks! (Had cereals for breakfast. One that Marcus got tired eating.)

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Driving Conditions We Have Come To Accept?

Image by Marcus’ dad.

Every day as I drive home I realize that there are conditions that we must have already accepted as the norm. At some point in the past these got so much attention most in the form of promises and grandstanding of politicians, and rants from the general public and the media. But as time passes focus on these issues have gone cold.

For example, dark streets. For more than three years I have been driving through the same dark inner roads and highways. On these roads I have witnessed countless accidents that could have been avoided had these places been well-lit. It bothers me to think that lives and limbs would be wasted soon unless the concerned government agencies start getting their acts together. There are already cheap solar street lighting so it makes me wonder what keeps our officials from installing them.

Then there are also the potholes. Years ago, each time I hear an exposé about substandard road projects I hoped and believed that change will start to happen soon–that roads will stay paved for long. But it was being naive because change was temporary. What appeared to be worthy projects have once again ended in the hands of corrupt contractors. Our roads are back to its sorry state.

Then we have the existence of smoke belchers. These vehicles, usually trucks and jeepneys, continue to pollute and to make driving a lot more difficult. Just imagine the challenge I experience almost daily as I make my way through pitch-black, zigzagged, and potholed road while following a slow-moving truck spewing a screen of thick black smoke. Oh, before I forget, this part of my trip is uphill. Whatever happened to the clean air act?

I don’t know when another campaign to eradicate these problems will kick in once more. Maybe soon but maybe not. Or, maybe when these hazardous road conditions claim the life of someone famous. Until then it looks like these are just things that we must accept and live with.

***

Mood: 2/10 Honks! (My body clock is American, time zone is Asian.)

Safer Roads With House Bill 4160

Everyday I pass this area where pedestrians merrily cross the street as they end their day. It is a sight of perfect harmony, students and some of their teachers alike go together to the other side of the road to wait for their ride home. But what do I find so wrong in this picture? They are jaywalking.

The area has been an accident magnet. I have seen countless times serious–worst so far was a man flying like a ragdoll after being hit by a closed van–incidents that could have been totally avoided. So I was very thankful when the local government finally constructed the overpass about five years ago but sadly it didn’t take long for people to start jaywalking again.

I was so curious with the unpopularity of the overpass so I checked it out during one of my early morning runs. Other than the graffiti-filled sides, I found out that there there is really no strong reason for pedestrians not to use it. I couldn’t help but surmise that most are just merely lazy to take the stairs and lack the discipline to use the pedestrian overpass–sadly including teachers in uniform of the nearby school.

Fortunately, we still have lawmakers who keep themselves busy. Just this week I heard about House Bill 4160 that two house representatives have filed. The new bill seeks to include traffic safety in the basic education curriculum of students from elementary to high school. I am now keeping my fingers crossed and hoping that the bill gets approved and strictly implemented soon.

***

To be fair, I see possible reasons when jaywalking instead of crossing a pedestrian overpass (or underpass) is acceptable. Firstly, there have been a lot of overpass wherein homeless people have used it as their shelter–some considered not temporary–and they are usually suspects in snatching and robbing those who pass by the overpass. A well-lit and guarded area should keep them away from it.

Then there are those who are physically unable. For overpass without an elevator or escalator, pedestrians such as pregnant women, the frail senior citizens, and the handicaps won’t be able to use it without assistance. Now how could they safely cross the other side on their own? It would take considerate drivers to discern and let them through. And that is another part of the story.

***

Mood: 3/10 Honks! ( Almost noon, Marcus just woke. His class starts in few hours.)

(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.)

Fix the Road to Tagaytay First!

I’m beginning to appreciate nationalism especially after Ondoy struck the country. I’m proud that a lot of people extended their helping hands to the unprecedented number of unfortunate individuals who are devastated by the typhoon. And the video with Apl. De. Ap is one of those that helped somehow uplift the spirit of unity and hope within each Filipino.

While I appreciate the efforts that our Department of Tourism has made to tap one of Black Eyed Peas member to promote our country, I cannot seem to stop my head from shaking almost like our car’s bobhead whenever I drive by the 20-kilometer stretch of the Aguinaldo highway on my way to and from school. It makes me always think if foreigners wonder what is worth their while in Tagaytay that they have to suffer the bumpy ride going there which is made worse by occasional traffic.

Yes, you read it right—occasional. For some good reason, my recent trips have been shortened by about half of what it used to take. If what I heard from my drinking buddies are correct, then the opening of the newly built road somewhere in Bacoor did decongest traffic flow. I have travelled several times this week and volume of vehicles is not the main cause of traffic anymore but rather the existence of the ever cratered-roads—potholed is a weak adjective.

But do not rejoice yet, you Cavite politicians—you know who you are. Before you smile and raise a toast for having at least one blog site appreciate your Molino road project, you’re wrong.  This project has been long overdue and you still have more things to do and patching up those craters of Aguinaldo Highway with thin layer of asphalt is not one of those. If you want to impress our foreign tourists, fix the road to Tagaytay first.

***

Another sad news for the tourism industry that I read today is about a couple of deadly crimes that occurred during the opening of the Masskara festival in Bacolod. What makes this news more disappointing is the fact that this actually isn’t the first time.

During every Masskara festival, the Bacolod plaza is basically a vast beer garden (among the other daily activities such as street dancing, etc.) and it therefore means one thing—lots of people are drunk, supposedly in the name of merrymaking, and they mingle with the sober public. When this happens, it’s like an accident or, more aptly, a crime waiting to happen.

It’s frustrating that Bacolod City’s public officials always fail to put controls to its annual event. To make it more frustrating, a large police station is just right in front of the Bacolod City plaza where the center of activity is. I don’t know what’s keeping them from ensuring a safe and a truly festive environment for both locals and tourists. So unless they get their acts together, they should expect only one mask expression in 2010—a pouty—and they can just forget about being called the City of Smiles. Ti abi.

***

Mood: 2/10 Honks! (Hope I can watch the ANC forum’s replay of its recent interview with the four presidentiables.)

Of bad job interview and bad neighbors

 

I woke up today with a hope of a very good day but it just wasn’t meant to be I guess. I was supposed to bring my car to Makati for an exam in one of the companies I’m applying for. And one of the compelling reasons is just about being paranoid about the recent confirmation of an AH1N1 case here in the Philippines. The morning show on TV though answered my dilemma of bring the car or not. It said not – one part of the already confusing Makati streets is close for a celebration. Bad sign number one.

Anticipating worse traffic I was already on a bus by 6:30 am. Just a few minutes later it was jam-packed worse than sardines and worst, the person standing right behind me was coughing as if he’s the only one inside the bus – this is why I really would want to avoid public transport. But then again do I have the choice? A couple of hours and some sore butt later, I was already in Ayala avenue and true indeed, the jeepney terminal has a very long queue of mostly mean looking passengers. Bad sign number two.

Realizing that I still have more than an hour to spare, I decided to walk going to my destination as traffic then was at a crawling phase. Ganito nga sila sa Makati (This is how they are in Makati) – an irritating line of the info commercial which is clearly a plug for a presidential candidate. The nerve. The leather shoes I was wearing making the long (more than 2 km, if I’m not mistaken) walk tiring. The thick polo shirt plus a white t-shirt inside completing the torture.

More than thirty minutes of brisk walk later, I arrived ahead of time; more than enough for me to grab a quick McDonald’s hotcake; and still more than enough for me to get me back to the right elevator inside the PBCom tower. Soon enough, I was among the eTelecare hopefuls waiting in their comfy lobby – while trying to get the feel of who’s the closest competition. Hahaha. By past 10 am, the two part examination took place. I think I can confidently say that I aced it. I was among those few who passed. But wait.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t prepared that the interview will be done past lunch – I was already hungry the moment I finished my exam by 11 because the view of the Krispy Kreme donut shop is right below me from the tower’s 12th floor. We were made to wait back in their lobby but it doesn’t feel cozy this time. My hunger and the strong air-conditioning making the anxiety worse. The interview didn’t happen not until 1 pm.

Good thing that the interview was quick. Bad thing is that my answer in the application sheet seems to have worked against me (although I expected it). I answered the question, “are you willing work on rotation?” with NO. Because I just really can’t especially now that I’m getting serious with my first two MBA subjects. So once again, I heard the ever familiar line, “don’t call us, we’ll call you.” Bad sign number three.

I immediately walked out of the building with only one goal at that moment – grab some Krispy Kreme; and grab I did – I got an assorted dozen to go.

 

***

 

I arrived home by 3 pm and after having consumed 3 donuts while inside the bus. After a few chit chat with my waiting wifey and kid, I felt asleep. By 5 pm I woke up, eager to continue the attack on the Krispy Kreme, but this time with a well deserved hot coffee to go with it. And guess what, it wasn’t meant to be.

Just I was about to lean back on the couch and savor the steaming beverage, my good neighbor called out. He said he noticed that one of my car’s tires is completely flat. I got out, feeling bad about not having finished the coffee in the mug. The moment I saw the tire, I already had a bad gut feel about it. I changed it with the spare tire and headed to the nearest true vulcanizing shop. My hunch was right – its sidewall was intentionally punctured. Damn. Several things were already running inside my head. Bad sign number four.

After leaving the tire shop, I went straight to the Dasma police station to have the incident blottered because this time this isn’t just a mere malicious scratch which I had observed to appear every morning since the day I got into trouble with some of the board members in my intent to unify them. What makes me really feel bad is that it’s been months already after I resigned (trying to stay away from the worsening relationship) and until know some of the people here in our village still would like to make their views heard, sadly, through an unfair and cheap act – puncturing my car’s tire. Although, I have other thoughts why they did it. Hope I’m wrong.

I’ve already seek the help of some of my immediate neighbors and I’m just really hoping that the incident won’t happen again – and that whoever did this will come up and face me instead to talk about whatever they have against me. But until then, I just consider them cowards who would rather poke a defenseless tire. It’s bad, but the truth is, there are just some people who are worse than the poor butt hole.

Hopefully, tomorrow will be a better day. Hopefully, tomorrow, I’ll savor the remaining Krispy Kremes. Hopefully…

 

 Mood: 6/10 Honks!

Guilt-free traffic

 

Bacolod – Just got back home from a crazy early morning traffic jam. The lane was packed – if I can recall it right there were six lanes one way. Others in front of me were moving slow. On my left and right were drivers just merrily chatting with the other drivers of the nearby vehicles – all moving at the same pace as if there’s 48 hours in a day. Others were fast. Some drivers have parked aimlessly on the shoulder letting off some steam. While some others continue to crisscross like speed racers. My driver, so unlikely of him, didn’t mind though. He never touched the horn.

 

Instead, he followed just like others did. He overtook some; weaved from left to right without even caring to switch on the correct turn signal lamp. He even had a near miss with some. And if I’m not mistaken he even brushed with several others along the way. But despite all these, not one bad finger sign got out of someone else’s window. Neither was a swear word shouted nor was a hint of road rage shown. This is crazy.

 

Ah. This is how it feels to be a pair of running shoes. Tomorrow, I heard from my driver, in between puffs, that he’s taking another trip with us once again. Today, he did at least 20 km – from home to lagoon and back. That’s fair, considering that he hasn’t do road runs in years; and to mention that he’s now ten pounds heavier than last year. Shhh. Let’s see how he’ll do tomorrow.

This shoes are made for running, and thats just what theyll do - at least during this vacation.

These shoes are made for running, and that's just what they'll do - at least during this vacation.

 

 

Mood: 2/10 Honks!

 postscript: too much running drains oxygen from the brain. I apologize for the “exhausted” grammar. I think I got all of them already. *LOL*