Riding the MRT has been a source of immense childlike joy for me. It reminds me so much of the horror train from our annual fair back in grade school. Sans the tunnel of G.I. sheets painted with poor renderings of manananggals, kapres, and tikbalangs, the MRT is the same as the good ol’ horror train. As for the “Gabi ng Lagim” wolf cries, these are incidentally replaced with the screeching sounds from the trains’ doors, rusty brakes, and the occasional quarrels among disgruntled passengers.
Ah, the MRT truly is a time machine worthy of Doc’s train in Back to the Future 3: It can send you to the past or straight to your death in the future. Just to illustrate how old these trains actually are, the warning lights on top of its doorways are marked “Made in Czechoslovakia”—a country that has been out of existence for 21 years now. It is, indeed, strange, when the train was only finished during President Estrada’s time (15 years ago to be exact). As for its capability to fast forward through time, there is no better image than the train shooting off its track, exploding out of the station’s fence, and driving into EDSA concrete. Who would’ve thought we’d be the first to make a train that transforms into a coach, capable of driving on roads?
Over thirty people were hurt in Wednesday’s accident at the MRT’s EDSA-Taft station. Thankfully (or “luckily” for the DOTC), no one died. But unlike other catastrophes, natural or man-made, this didn’t shock anyone. Everyone saw it coming. No self-respecting commuter would say that that was unexpected. That would be like saying Dingdong Dantes’ proposal shocked you. But just in case that it did shock you, well, news flash: both incidents have been a long time coming.
Likewise, it has long been my desire to compile stories of commuters, especially of stories set in the MRT, a la Humans of New York. We’d have thousands of success stories (“I fit inside the train during rush hour!”), heartbreaking stories (“My phone got stolen somewhere along the ride.”), exciting stories (“I had a mini-heart attack when the train’s engines stopped.”), inspiring stories (“I just saw a man take a bath, take a dump, do his laundry, and brush his teeth in the comfort room in Shaw Boulevard station.”—my personal experience; he made a long line outside), etc. if we just hang around at the trains and the stations for a day. Imagine the possibilities.
There was a time when my sister rode the coach for women, children, the elderly and the disabled. It was 7 p.m. and the trains were packed. She and her fellow passengers noticed a burly man sneak and stuff his way inside their coach. The women turned to him and asked him why he was in that coach and he just gave a wry smile in reply. With everyone’s tempers boiling, somebody had to say it, “Ano’ng kapansanan mo? Pagiging tanga?” (“What’s your disability? Is it ‘being stupid’?”)
Speaking of fools, there has been clamor for our public officials to take the train or public transport in general to work. It makes sense, too—“Public Officials in Public Transports.” It makes so much sense that it’s something you’d expect Mar Roxas to do. (And he has!) But of course, they’re not going to set foot on those trains on a regular basis: our government’s hands are already jittery to finally sell the “unprofitable” thing. They’d make the MRT a private enterprise before they’d even think of servicing the public with it. (Read: The issues surrounding ex-MRT General Manager Al Vitangcol.) That way, we can no longer say it’s a public transport for public officials. That or they can profit from it by the megalopolis’ avoidance of subsidizing it; by raising its fares without the corresponding quality service; and by acting deaf, dumb, and blind to the public outrage (for which they get an A+). Maybe it’s time they re-evaluate the MRT’s Key Performance Indicators?
To pay tribute to the passing of one of the greatest comedians we were blessed to have witnessed, please allow me to close this attempt at comedy with this paragraph:
As proud members of the Metro Manila Dead Commuters Society, it seems that we have made a lose-lose deal with the devil. With our membership in the club (by virtue of our meaningful existence in Metro Manila), we have signed an imaginary contract that states that either (a) the devil provides us an alternative means of transportation or (b) the devil takes our lives instead. So, if you come out of that train alive, you have no choice but to be thankful that the devil didn’t end your sorry journey in this planet somewhere between North Ave. and Taft Ave. stations (or in Wednesday’s case, beyond Taft Avenue station). Say it with me, “O, Train Operator, my Train Operator!”