I was snacking on the regular fries while waiting for a taxi outside Robinsons Place Manila, my newest hangout due to its proximity to my office, when a man, who must have grown old begging, held out his palm to me. I stopped chewing mid-fry and handed him the packet of fries that still had a good amount of potato left. The man eyed my Jollibee bag and said, "Tinapay!" (Bread!). I shook my head and said, "Para po sa anak ko ito" (This is for my child).
I didn't know what came over me. I didn't have any children. What I had was pasalubong for my parents and my balikbayan aunt, and I guess I was looking for gratitude in the man's eyes. I didn't see any. Then he said, "Barya na lang" (Give me coins then). The lady standing on the taxi lane before me interrupted and said, "Manong, binigyan ka na nga ng pagkain eh" (Brother, she already gave you food). The man walked away, sad.
I was saddened by that incident, without knowing that I would later on give the Double Yum with TLC in my bag to someone else: the cab driver.
The Taxi Lane was not moving, and irate shoppers were picking on the mall security guard for allowing people who did not fall in line to get the cabs that refused to stop in front of the designated space. I already had enough bad experiences with cabbies to know that I might have to wait for an hour in that kind of situation. So I did what I had to do. I called my regular cab company, Reno, the garage of which was just five minutes away from my house. They never refused passengers who wanted to get to Don Antonio, as that was their home base as well. I was at ease with their drivers, since they knew that I knew where they worked and could thus report any undesirable behavior.
I waited for ten minutes in front of the Padre Faura exit of the mall, away from the taxi lane so as to avoid having to "fight" for my cab, and when I saw the plate number I was given on the phone, I hailed the cab, and the driver saw me. It was a rainy night and the end of a very long work week. Before I could get in, a man (in black) also hailed the cabbie. I saw the driver motion with his left hand that he was answering a client's call and was not available. As I was taking my seat, I heard a loud thud and immediately saw another man (in white), apparently the companion of the one who hailed the taxi after I did, violently hit the hood of the taxi with his bare hands.
Man-in-white shouted to the driver, "Pulis ako!", and proceeded to hurl expletives at the driver. I gathered that he thought the driver was just being picky, so I attempted to talk to him and explained that I called the taxi company and he was just fetching me as scheduled. Man-in-white refused to even acknowledge my existence. He looked drunk. He then twisted the radio antenna of the car, and the driver protested. They had a heated argument, and man-in-black intervened. He closed the door of the cab, but man-in-white opened it again, all the time shouting expletives at the driver, who was regally defending himself.
Eventually we were out of danger. Or so I thought. The driver could not get over what happened, and made a U-turn to drive directly in front of the men-in-uniform, but a mall security guard stopped him, thinking his passenger (who was me) was alighting, and asked if he could let the "man from Immigration" ride the cab. The driver asked the guard for the man-in-white's name, but at this time said man already flashed the dirty finger to the driver, and they exchanged another round of obscene four-letter words.
Now, I had had a rough week. Month. Year. I was in a car accident last week. The day after, my vertigo struck as the cab driver wound his merciless way around the streets of Manila. Worse, I could not contribute much towards the hosting of my aunt from the States as I got sick with the flu over the weekend. My work was stressful enough for ten people, and I had all the stress-related symptoms ever invented. I was just diagnosed yesterday as having Impaired Glucose Tolerance (IGT) or being in the pre-diabetic stage, and was given medication, and was studying a new diet and exercise plan more suited to my situation. Two weeks ago, I kept a close friend of mine company after her car accident. I had yet to see my first government paycheck for this position. The actual list of whines is much longer. You get the point.
My natural reaction would have been to panic at the scene played in front of me. But I could not afford to panic. I tried to calm the driver down and to dissuade him from courting disaster. He kept saying he could get any policeman dismissed from the service, as he had done so in the past, when his rights were similarly trampled upon. This man, he said, was not even a real policeman! He was not afraid! His taxi company would defend him! He had a witness: me! He had a defender: Tulfo!
I had to agree with him that he did nothing wrong and to utter other words of assurance that he was victimized by a government employee who was on a power trip. I then reminded him to flag down his meter because he had completely forgotten it, so engrossed was he on thoughts of revenge. We had a very long discussion as traffic was bad (usual Friday rainy night stuff), and to cheer him up, I offered him a Jollibee yumburger.
He unwrapped the juicy burger and quickly bit into it while he was driving. He said that he didn't realize that the incident had left him hungry. At last, I heaved a sigh of relief. It was only then that I ate my favorite Jollibee hotdog, which I had been wanting to sink my teeth into ever since leaving the mall.
It was a scene straight out of a Jollibee commercial. Comfort food. Pampalamig ng ulo. Pag may karapatan, ipaglaban mo. Mag-Jollibee muna tayo. (Sorry, there simply is no appropriate translation for that.)
I got home safely and paid the driver the usual fare, even though the taxi meter showed a much lower amount, since our drive from Faura to Quiapo was not registered. I still had a Jolly hotdog and a Cheesy Bacon Mushroom to share with my family. I wasn't able to tell them about my eventful night because they were engrossed with the last episode of Tayong Dalawa. Yes, this entry is so Pinoy!
Tomorrow, or sometime this weekend, I will write about two office outfit disasters that eventually turned into blessings. Safety pins and shawls are involved. ;)
By the way, I am not getting paid for this by Jollibee. But if the people behind it chance upon this blog, a two-piece Chickenjoy meal will do. For me. For cabbie (I can get his name from the company). For man-in-black. Even for man-in-white (Cabbie is going to research his identity). Might change his ways, who knows.