this story originally appeared in the philippine daily inquirer on June 26, 1999.
I started off as a bullshitter, one of those totally annoying showoffs in school who think they are smarter than the teacher. Now, I still get some pleasure pissing people off, but I have learned that the best way to do this is by doing the right thing. This way, the confrontation may get ugly but you still come out on top. One of the most effective ways I have found to get people irritated is to observe the rule that says intersections should be kept open.
Everyone can’t take this, starting from rich, old farts who think my 21-year-old car doesn’t deserve to be on the road and business executives to social climbing teenyboppers and the usual road monsters driving taxis and bus drivers. Sometimes I keep my speed down to 20 kph in residential areas, knowing that kids jump from out of nowhere in such places. When drivers behind me lose their patience and start honking (and trust me, they will in less than three seconds), I just pull up to the side and give them a grin and a theatrical but really sarcastic hand signal that says, ”The road is yours, buddy. You might miss your job interview.”
Me, I’m in no hurry. I have pretty much done a little bit of everything already. The third method involves the car in front. I give a beatific smile to the driver of the car that wouldn’t start. I stay quiet and patient. It’s probably because I do have a lot of time. I don’t care if I’m late for work and I go to other appointments an hour early. The thing is, by doing any of these things, you’ll get honked at and cursed a lot. But that’s what you’re fishing for, really: to let the other fellow proclaim to the world that he is a jerk. Sometimes, when nobody’s watching, it’s less fun. You get a kick when pedestrians thank you for letting them cross.
My motives aren’t really that noble. I really work on being ”cool.” I have everything, the piercing, the goatee, the works. If I’m anything, I’m vain. That’s why I cruise. I love it when pedestrians and other drivers give attention to the striking driver of the beat-up, red car over that yuppie in a Honda. I have my insecurities, sorry. That’s also the reason I never use my horn: to show everyone I’m not a typical, insecure, paranoid, lagi-kaming-api masang Pinoy or an insecure, paranoid, I-own-the-road, siren-using rich brat. I’m different. I’m cool. Pinoys are generally insecure and paranoid so that an honest lapse like cutting into one’s lane is considered a personal affront. A friend once complained, ”Makakasagasa ka na, ‘di ka pa bumusina.” I told him my brakes were fine, thank you.
Lately it’s been different, though. I’m starting to piss myself off. Before, when I would be first at the intersection and the driver behind me honked as soon as the light turned green, I would delay moving by three seconds and then fly off. Now I stick a dirty finger out of my car. The other day, I was driving down Kalayaan Avenue. I had the right of way. I blinked my lights at the cars that were ready to cross. Suddenly, there was this taxi driver trying to beat me across the intersection. He stepped on the brakes in time. As I passed him, I gave him the dirty finger and some choice words. I was furious and out of focus when I got home. I was mad at myself. Yes, the finger was uncalled for, but I was more pissed because I should have hit the brakes. That was really stupid of me. But I blinked my lights. . . I could’ve done my usual ”the road is yours” act. But I blinked my lights. . . Am I becoming one of them? I know this is not an excuse, but perhaps I just had a bad day with taxis (who never had one?). You can’t really say someone’s nice and good until you’ve seen him drive. Not your clean-cut boyfriend, not your understanding dad, not your NGO-volunteer older brother. Maybe if I had learned to use the horn and didn’t try to be too idealistic about the whole thing, I wouldn’t have to resort to giving the dirty finger.