Everyday we witness a number of proofs that people are somehow capable of kind acts to each other. But if my friend Queensfoil is to be believed, taking a train in Manila at rush hour is enough to restore the suspicion that humans are beasts.
To illustrate, notice the grim-faced yuppie (highly skilled in the art of elbowing fellow passengers), the wild-haired harpy (talented in verbally abusing men who would not give up their seats to a woman), the shadowy figure (gifted with sleight-of-hand instincts), and yourself (swallowed whole by a monster with multiple heads, arms, legs, armpits, groins).
I think about a time when I liked taking the MRT, and my mind promptly draws a blank. Then I think about how I managed the daily trips from Guadalupe to Quezon Avenue when I was a college student, and my thought process returns to Queensfoil, who recently compiled a helpful list of tips on railway survival. The list is terribly funny in Filipino, and I try my best translating some of them into English below:
1. One way to beat the crowd of waiting passengers in the platform is to feign disinterest. Act as if the next train is the last thing in your zen mind. And then surprise the hell out of everybody by your most lifelike version of a lion’s growl.
2. Your elbows and knees are your trusty weapons. If you’re with a kid or a pregnant friend, use them as a shield.
3. Survival may also be a collaborative effort. Befriend two or three fellow passengers and suggest that you create together a human chain to ensure no one is left behind.
4. Once inside, never position yourself in the middle of a train car. It is a mistake. You will find yourself transformed into a revolving door.
5. Forget about safety hand rails. The voice-over is an idiot. You wouldn’t need safety hand rails to keep standing.
6. Keep near the doors as much as you can; it would be easier to get off the train that way. Bear in mind that if your stop is Ayala, Buendia, or Shaw, you should place yourself by the doors on the left side.
7. When you are eager to get off the train and a fat person is directly in front of you, do not even attempt to compete. Let him be. He will clear the way for you. Remember to thank him afterwards.
I am quite sure that this is a short list and long experience will prove that there are other strategic techniques at our disposal. I can think of one or two, which involve the use of crutches and/or a priest’s cassock. You just have to have the right frame of mind. The strong conquers and eliminates the weak. Survival of the fittest.
Just yesterday, the news says the government has deferred train fare hikes but is still firm in its resolve to push through with implementation this year. One might think, whoa, this must redefine survival of the fittest.
If perhaps we take a minute to think about the impending fare hike, about the fact that single journey tickets would now be sold only in P15, P20, and P30 denominations, and that fares would now be measured by the kilometer, I wonder if maybe–just maybe–we would be properly aggressive and direct our madness toward a goal other than jostling each other to get toward the closing automatic train doors.