Never at rush hour | Inquirer Lifestyle

The battle of the Popes

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Never at rush hour

I thought I would never beat my record for most hours spent behind the wheel in traffic: four hours, driving home to Marikina from Makati after the July 16, 1990 earthquake.

And then, last December, I left Marikina at 7:30 a.m. for a 10:30 interview in Alabang—
and I arrived at 12 noon. I was so catatonic, my gracious subject, a foundation president, asked his staff to get me water and fan me until I recovered.

I’m fortunate that I generally have flexible time, and the hours I do spend at work don’t have me heading out in traffic with everybody else. So my rule as a driver is, as much as possible, never, ever schedule something that will require me to be on the road at rush hour.

I leave home late and go home late. I also stick to four wheels—on coded days, I take Uber (never a regular taxi, because I fear for my life—yes, I do, LTFRB).

In the good old days (sigh), I would happily leave my car in safe, strategic places, take the MRT down Edsa, and actually enjoy the ride. Today, again, I fear for my life and sanity, and my heart goes out to the commuters I see waging that battle. Every. Single. Day.

My last recent crazy experience was driving the 3 km from my mom’s house to my condo one Saturday in an hour and a half. I could’ve walked that in less time, if I didn’t have stuff to carry.

Today, the Marikina (not the city proper)-Makati drive at about 11 a.m. takes me at least an hour, if there’s no accident—half of that spent getting from my house to Edsa, via perpetually clogged Katipunan Avenue and White Plains. Then I leave work past midnight to get home quicker.

The problem is, this season
—and during rainy payday Fridays—bumper-to-bumper traffic could still be waiting at 1 a.m. Horrors.

So how do I survive a drive, when it’s illegal to text (which is a good idea), but everyone is trying to reach you? There’s hands-free speakerphone, when it’s really urgent. A car phone charger, crackers, a jug of water, Waze for traffic updates. There’s music—a fun station like 104.3 FM (the government station, ironically), with its throwback tunes. Or a Broadway CD, with me singing all the parts.

Or, when people on the road are really rude and motorcycles are cutting like crazy and buses stop wherever they like—a CD of classical or religious music, to stop me from committing murder. Such is life in Manila traffic.