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The Dignity of a High School Lad Against a Rude Jeepney Driver

My ride to work this morning was mundane but for an incident involving a high school student on his way to school and the jeepney driver.

The poor lad, from his uniform apparently enrolled in one of the public high schools, had only the 100-peso bill handed over by his parents as his baon for the day. He was polite, but not apologetic, when he handed the bill over to the driver.

There is this myth, doubtless perpetuated by “barya lang sa umaga” stickers, that one is supposed to pay coins only in the mornings. The premise to this, of course, is that drivers are coming out cold from their garages and will not be able to change bills paid by the early risers.

That is one school of thought. The other is that, since the drivers operate what is essentially a for-profit operation, it is, in fact, their obligation to save some coins from the previous day’s income in anticipation of passengers who may not have any with them.

Owners of stores do this as second nature, so why can’t jeepney drivers?

It is not as if passengers deliberately pay bills in the morning thinking the drivers will not have any change with them and they will get free rides. Take that boy this morning… That bill was probably the only money he had with him.

Needless to say, the driver this morning grudgingly returned the bill to the boy, the tone of his voice and the expression on his face not exactly the prime example of politeness. Unfazed, and also probably because he was intrinsically an honest person, the boy looked around with raised eyebrows at the other passengers.

When he caught my eye, he politely asked if I had change for his bill. I did, as a matter of fact. And happily gave him five twenty peso bills...

I dunno… Somehow that little incident made me feel so happy. I normally encounter loud uncouth kids in my rides to and from school. Seldom do I see young people comport themselves with such dignity in what was, on the face of it, a potentially embarrassing situation.

If anything, it was the driver who looked sheepish when the lad handed over one of the bills I gave him. Serves him right!

[This story was first published on Facebook on 11 June 2008.]

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