I spend a lot of time in cabs. So obviously, I spend a lot of time with cabbies. I have come to appreciate the...hmmmm...loneliness cab drivers must face everyday. To be constantly surrounded by people and yet be invisible. To be always in the middle of conversations and yet be ignored. To be ordered, forgotten, paid, and left behind all in the time it takes to get from benavidez to valero.
So i try to be a polite passenger whenever i can.
I listen when talked to, answer when necessary, and even smile occasionally.
They do love to talk. They talk about anything and everything. From politics, to religion, to showbiz chismis, to, of course, the rising cost of fuel.
But when they start talking about themselves, i channel my inner Oprah and start to have a conversation.
Last night was one of my favorites.
"Alam ko ang United Paranaque. Bago palang ako mag abroad alam ko na yan," he casually says.
"San ka nagpunta?" I asked. If you've been abroad, I want to know where because I'm an inggitera.
"Every year ako nag a-abroad. One year sa Kuwait. One year dito. Driver ako dun."
"OO. Maliit nga lang ang sweldo ko eh. 3,600 lang."
"Dollars?" I asked.
"OO," he answered.
I, of course, couldn't stop myself from saying "Ang yabang mo naman. Hindi nga?"
"OO nga. Pero mababa yon kumpara sa ibang amerikano na kapereho ko sa trabaho."
"Talaga?", although I'm sure there was a big SHYAR!!! flashing on my forehead noh. "Fun ba sa Kuwait?"
"Okay naman. Open city na yon. Maraming pinay na babae na blah blah blah" He must have noticed that mind had already drifted off because he cleared his voice before he continued to say "Pumunta ako sa Kuwait pagkatapos kong makulong."
So, attentive na naman si ets diba?
"Nakulong ka?" I asked as i hold on tighter to my bag with my left hand and ready my right to open the door in case i needed to jump out of there.
"OO. Sundalo ako nuon. Napasama ako sa coup nung kay Gringo," he shares.
Fear turns into judgment "Bakit ka naman kasi sumama dun?"
He gets on the defensive "Hindi ko talaga alam maam na ganun pala. Sundalo ako sa probinsya (I forget where), sarhento na ako. Tinawagan ako nung superior ko ng madaling araw, sabi nya na i-ready ko raw ang platoon ko. Alam mo kasi sa military, obey first before you ask. So wala akong tanong-tanong. Na-excite nga ako dahil babyahe kaming maynila. So pagpunta namin ng maynila, pinapunta kami sa Dusit, sa Hotel Nikko. Tapos yon, coup na pala yon. Na-aresto kami, nakulong ako ng anim na buwan."
"Pinagsisihan mo ba yon?"
"Hindi mo na rin masabi eh. Ganon talaga sa trabaho namin eh."
Another story that I haven't forgotten happened several years ago. I've unfortunately forgotten who I was with but we were a lot because I remember feeling cramp at the back.
We were driving by 6750 when he points to the building and says in perfect english "That's where my daughter works. She's an executive for Caltex."
And thats when I started to take notice of him. He was probably in his early 50s. You had to look closely, but you could tell that his features were very mestizohin. Even in his worn-out shirt, he could have easily passed as one of my dad's friends. And it was obvious from the way he spoke that sentence, that he was educated.
As it turns out, he was a rich kid. He went to La Salle for college and graduated with a degree in business management. He married his girlfriend and they had 2 children. He quit his job shortly after he got it because he was too spoiled and too arrogant to take orders from someone else. He took his parents' money and he gambled it away. Took his wife's money and gambled it away.
His wife left him and brought their children with her. She did okay without him. Found a job and was able to raise their kids well and send them to college.
He was hit by depression and wasn't able to recover as quickly. But one day, he realized that he had to do something. By this time he had already lost his friends too and had no one to run to. No company would touch him. So he applied as a cab driver.
At the time we met him, he had just been driving for a little over a year. "I'm not used to hard labor," he said. He holds up his hand to show us his calluses that still seem fresh "I got these from driving everyday of the week without a day off for the past year. I want to change my life," he added.
And there, of course, is my all time favorite cabbie. He's name is Guy Goma. He is my ultimate example of a man who will pretend to know how to swim when he's thrown in the river even if he's drowning just because people are watching on the shore.