Little did we know, three days after our arrival from a trip, that our lifestyle would be altered, drastically and possibly for good.
Our driver of five years quit and went home to Camiguin to nurse a broken heart and repair his macho pride. He related his tragic love story between unmanly sobs upon our arrival. He, in fact, had a ticket to sail home the next day.
It was hard to believe he was foregoing his separation pay by not giving us proper notice, not to mention side benefits from the government for working in Makati. We still gave him something. We were too embarrassed by his unabashed grief to try to talk him out of quitting.
But the more I thought about his case, the more it seemed to fit into Uncle Peping’s theory about love; for authority, he is a clear-minded, soon-to-be 99. “Pues, asi es el amor.” That’s love. For goodness sakes, she was his third wife!
He may have fooled me, but definitely not my husband, to whom, as a journalist, skepticism is the first virtue. Like me, most of my friends were sure he would be back, sooner than we thought.
Indeed, in less than three weeks, he texted that things were not going as expected in the province: fishing was bad with all the rain. And, yes, he would be back—but not with us!
As luck would have it, someone happened to have found himself in our building, learned he had left, and offered him a dream job—in Makati still!—with a salary few could match, free housing and a prepaid ticket back.
Vergel told me to text back our lucky driver to say we were happy that, in less than a month, his shattered heart had been made whole again by some generous patron of placement. Come to think of it, his sudden-exit ploy had been used by the very driver he replaced. In Vergel’s words, “Bumenta na.”
After four years with us, his predecessor gave this version—his OFW wife was coming home with enough money for them to start their business in their hometown. In less than a month he was back, again, in our own building working for a neighbor, a foreigner.
But then, that’s life and progress, I suppose, although it doesn’t always work out well. A friend’s kasambahay, who had been pirated by a recruiter for Dubai, said goodbye to her upon her return from a trip, too. She tried to warn her and talk her out of the rush, but there was no stopping her. Well, she now wants to come back but my friend is not about to take back someone who’s always looking for the highest bidder. The last news was that she was back in her home province, literally planting kamote.
It’s also naive to believe kasambahay and drivers will stay with you for the rest of your days. They move on or get old and sick like everybody else.
Looking for a replacement is not easy. Anyway, at the moment, we are not inclined to look. Vergel, who has not driven in two years, will renew his driver’s license. We will replace our two-year-old SUV with a sedan or hatchback that I can mount and dismount easily. Until that happens, it’s Grab time for us.
Grab is proving very practical, indeed. Just thinking about it now, I’m getting overwhelmed by the savings we’re reaping driverless—what with overtime pay, yearly bonus, SSS share, meals, and transportation allowance, cell phone load, parking fees.
I don’t mind paying our kasambahay, in whose care we leave our home and belongings and our plants, but a driver has dangerous idle time on his hands to chat and compare with other drivers, and perhaps look for better luck.
A driverless existence, or a carless one, will certainly require some getting used to, but that’s exactly what we want to experience. It’s been so far liberating. It forces us to be more mindful of maximizing every trip out of the house. I seem to be getting better organized, with no more driver to go through a checklist of things I may have forgotten: “Cell phone, Ma’am? Makeup kit [I usually put my face in the car], shawl, sweater? Thermos? Wala na tayo nakalimutan, Ma’am?”
The biggest benefit, of course, in addition to the savings, would be to my health and well-being. For one thing, I’ll have to do more walking—to the banks, the beauty parlor, the chapel, the restaurants.
My daughter, who has had her own share of bad drivers has stopped looking herself. But she vehemently disagrees that we should remain driverless. She thinks this is precisely the time we need a driver. Maybe so, but I think something good will come in the interim.
Meanwhile, when we’re not picked up or dropped off by kind friends, it’s Grab time!