You know you're growing old when you start realizing how precious sleep and weekend downtime are. Friends my age and I reminisce about the times when we were kids and we were forced to sleep by our parents. In our twenties, it was just something we took for granted. When you're twenty-something, you feel like you have all the time in the world.
Now, when the weekend rolls in, I don't want to hit the hot clubs (although I never went through that phase to begin with), drink till I'm wasted (didn't go through that either), or head out of town at the crack of dawn. All I want to do is stay in bed until noon and roll in bed. When I get up, I just watch movies, eat tonkatsu or ramen, and go the mall to window-shop.
So I was heading home one Saturday after a relaxing movie-and-dinner date. It was a quarter to 11 o'clock in the evening and I wasn't expecting a lot of traffic. When I got to the intersection of C5 and Ortigas Avenue, I went to the lane under the flyover so I could make a U-turn going to my village. Traffic really slowed down as I neared the intersection. Although I knew the route going to Ortigas extension really got clogged up sometimes, I found the heavy car buildup unusual because it wasn't raining.
By the time I was just behind a big truck in front of Ortigas Avenue, everything came to a stop. Literally. This problem was one of my pet peeves. The buses, trucks and cars heading to Ortigas Extension were crossing C5 even if traffic wasn't moving on the other side. So when our light turned green, vehicles blocked our path. This was compounded by the fact that our green light only lasted about 10 seconds. (Seriously, why do some green lights have such quick intervals?)
Our side of the road couldn't move because when we were greenlit, we were blocked. The cycle just kept repeating. I was just stuck looking at green light after green light, with a truck that also couldn't move, blocking my way. The vehicles behind me inevitably started honking in frustration. I wanted to blow my horn, too, but I knew it was futile.
What was supposed to be a five-minute stoplight wait became 10 minutes, then 15, then 20. Part of me was becoming agitated, but the sheer stupidity of it all just prevented me from getting angry.
I remember driving in the US a few years back and seeing a similar intersection with one side full. But even though the stoplight was green for cars on the opposite side of the full intersection, none of them moved forward because they knew they would only block the perpendicular side. It was a marvelous sight for me. I felt like I was witnessing the traffic equivalent of a modern miracle. I wanted to hug all the drivers who were smart enough not to block traffic. Of course I knew there was also the real threat of being given a ticket if your car obstructed the road. But still, I felt the world was a better place because there were sane and rational motorists elsewhere in the world.
I'm not a big fan of America, but I feel this is what will solve our traffic woes: smarter drivers on the road and strict implementation of traffic rules. As far as I know, there's no way to make people smarter instantly, so we do the next best thing: Make getting a driver's license more challenging than it is, which isn't saying much. How hard? Difficult enough to filter out those idiots who obstruct right of way.
Some say this is anti-poor. What about poor Mang Jimmy who can't read or write but is just earning an honest living? I think we should look at the bigger picture here. Less traffic means more economic progress. And a better economy means more jobs. Traffic jam is a cancer that eats our time and resources. Its elimination will benefit us all.
The solution isn't the MMDA's two-day number-coding proposal. That's just going to squeeze the middle-class folks who work hard to meet their monthly car loans. The well-off won't be bothered. It'll just give them an excuse to buy another car. A million pesos or two won't even dent their bank account.
I finally crossed the nightmare intersection after 45 minutes, something that should have taken five minutes at the most. I was too tired to be pissed. I was just eager to sink into my bed.
I long for the day when the LTO issues driver's licenses only to those who follow the rules and who can think. And I might as well dream of the time when traffic rules are properly implemented for everyone--rich, poor, middle class. Because it's not about who's being disadvantaged by the law, it's about what's right. And when we do what's right, that's when things get better.