Friday, May 7, 2004

It's time for another.......

Traffic Vent.

The traffic has been remarkably clear the past couple days. That's because everyone is gearing up for the rallies, protests and general chaos of election day on Monday.
This post is not about that. It's about the MMDA. Metro Manila Department of... Something. I haven't figured it out yet. I could ask Ian but that feels like cheating.
Anyway, these people are everywhere. They are the traffic cops (though I'm realizing that's just the folks in blue. The folks in yellow and red with MMDA on the back are the street sweepers and roadbarrier scrubbers). At every major intersection, there are anywhere from 1 to 8 blue uniformed guys. Sometimes a woman, but that's very rare. Most often they are standing in little groups casting glances at the traffic. Sometimes they sit in little bedraggled huts on the corner. There's always one or two waving traffic through. Even when the standard 4 lanes have swelled to 6 lanes and there is a bus perpedicular and blocking 3 of those lanes, they stand amidst the unmoving rows of steel frantically waving their neon-gloved hands and whistling for people to move.
We ignore them.
I ignore them more and more it seems. I hate to say this but "everyone is doing it." I've been pulled over twice already. Correction, I've been pulled over once and the second time I was waved at to pull over but I kept on driving.
Does that make me a bad person?
Let me explain and try to defend myself.
There's this one intersection at EDSA and Taft. It goes under the lightrail bridge and the Taft road often has barriers to close off traffic from crossing EDSA. It seems to be the favorite method of controlling traffic here... don't give people any place to stop. U-turns are the favored method of going the opposite direction, even if it means driving several miles out of your way to reach the desired U-turn. Going around a block is impossible.
At this intersection there happens to be a light. I never noticed this light because it's rare than anyone stops at the intersection. Remember the barriers? Well, it seems that sometimes the barriers are moved and cross-traffic is indeed allowed through. When I did notice the light, I realized that it was on the opposite side of the column that is holding up the lightrail. Like it's giving directions to folks on the opposite side of the road. If they happen to glance in their rearview mirror. Which no one does.
So there's this light, that I didn't know was there, at an intersection that generally has barriers up to cross-traffic, and there were gobs of MMDA folks hanging around and along the median.
The light was red. I kept driving.
Now, here's the next bit about the MMDA guys themselves.
When you're in the States and a cop pulls you over, there is no doubt whatsoever what's going on. Right before we left Virginia, Ian made an illegal right turn on red. Cop at the corner stepped out in the road in front of him, pointed at him and turned full body to the parking lot where Ian was meant to pull over. No questions, no confusion. Caught.
MMDA guy stood on the median strip while I was 2 lanes into the road, stuck out his arm and did a little wrist wiggle down. I almost thought he was waving hello to me. It took a split second to realize what he was doing, and in that second, I was past him and moving down the road.
Nothing happened. He seemed to glanced after me and that was it.
I was nervous on the return trip home. Maybe he was waiting for me? Maybe my license place # had been recorded and was being watched for?
And then the reality hit. There are new MMDA folks there every day. Never the same 2 faces and never at the same hours of the day. People are rotated through these jobs it seems almost on an hourly basis. I was clear, but it would take days to stop clenching my fists on the wheel everytime I drove through.
Suffice to say that I am much more careful now at the intersection. I stop when the light turns red (they have since moved the light to the correct side of the pillar) and oftentimes am irritating the MMDA guys hanging around because then they have to come out into the street again to wave me (and any other moron who follows my lead and stops) through the intersection.
I'm more careful for one major reason. Getting pulled over is a waste of time. In Virginia, it's relatively quick and to the point. Give me my ticket, I'll remember next time, let's move on. Here, it's an exercise in bribery, intimidation and a complete waste of time. When I was actually pulled over several months ago (for driving the wrong way down a 2-way street that I didn't know turned one-way for a few hours each morning and there are no signs that -say- it goes one way), one guy held my license while another guy was writing up someone else for the same offense. I don't know if he was the official ticket writer or if they only have one ticket pad to share, but I sat there for 10 minutes while my personal MMDA infraction cop played toss with my license, then let me go after saying Merry Christmas. It was February, but I guess he did do me a favor.
Next time though, just send me my ticket. And leave me alone.

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