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Asking for Change After a Free Ride

Ahhh… The things I see while on my jeepney rides home… Small wonder Raquel at the MCD is so amused by my jeepney stories.

Yesterday, a gang of loud students. Today, a loud drunk sitting next to the driver. It was just a little past six in the evening, and already this man had had more alcohol than he could hold.

I am not sure that the drunken man – skinny, in his forties, dressed in dirty shorts and equally dirty t-shirt – knew the driver at all. He kept blabbering away, badly slurring his “r’s” and prolonging his “s-es” as he talked in a belabored way to the driver right next to him.

The driver wasn’t talking but the drunk kept at it, anyway. On the driver’s face, which I observed through the long mirror facing him, I could read a mixture of both disinterest and contempt.

I could have moved closer to the exit, but the drunken man’s demeanor fascinated me no end. I stayed rooted to my place and watched him through the long mirror as well.

When his eyes were open, they were hopelessly glassy. His head would slump forward and his eyes would close, but every time the driver slowed down to signify to people waiting by the roadside that he was picking up passengers, the drunken man’s head would bolt upwards, and he would look out the open door and shout “Sah-zhe! Sah-zhe!” at nobody in particular.

San Jose. That’s where the jeepney was headed.

From the few words the drunk was saying that I could understand, I made out the Tagalog words angkas la-ang, from which I gathered that he was hitching a free ride home. When he finally pointed to the driver the waiting shed where he would get off, he had the utter gall to ask for his change.

The driver, finally seeing humor in the irony of the request, managed a grin and told the drunk “sa isang araw na!” Another day…

I doubt it. From the way the driver looked at the drunken man as the latter was getting off, it seemed as though he wanted to give the latter a nudge so he would fall off into the road. What a smart thing to do that would have been!

[This story was first published on Facebook on 16 May 2008.]

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