Rest from Restriction
Finally, the drivers have taken down the barriers inside the jeepneys. Sometimes, when I fit my body inside one of those compartments with plastic sheets for walls and another plastic curtain in front of me, being tossed around by the wind and the movement of the vehicle, aggravated by the face mask and face shield, I feel like an inmate in solitary confinement, struggling for air to breathe. It used to be so easy to nudge my butt to move from front to back on a jeepney seat; but I could not do that with those barriers restricting movement. The most annoying part of it is when chance would have it that you are the lone passenger inside a jeepney, or one of two or three, and handing the fare becomes so much more difficult because you would have to slouch your back all the way to the front to deliver the payment. Once, I was sitting on the seat nearest to the entrance/exit of the jeepney cruising along Diversion Road where the wind could blow so refreshingly. The problem is it also blows that curtain of a plastic sheet hanging in the middle of the coach; and that transparent mantle which could have received airborne pathogens from whoever wherever keeps sticking itself on my face, courtesy of the wind. Now, at least, we’re rid of that; and we’re back to enjoying a less restrictive and traditional jeepney ride.
On the other hand, I appreciate the pandemic era tricycle ride. I have enjoyed the passenger coach all by myself, without being packed in a moving three wheeled sardine can, cramped by the fellow passenger beside me and another one in front of me, with our thighs and knees defying social distance. Even riding behind the driver has become confortable. Back in the day, the driver could appropriate two passengers behind him, even if his crotch scrapes the gasoline cap of the motorcycle or his face touches the wind shield. There are two types of tricycle back riders: the lucky back rider who gets to sit on the cushion adjacent to the driver, and the unlucky back rider who has to endure the torture of the grind of sitting on the metal bars throughout the ride which is hopefully short. At least, the pandemic era tricycle ride is a comfortable cruise with the passenger coach exclusively yours, or a back ride free from the torture of pressure of metal spikes on your butt. I hope we don’t go back to the time when a tricycle ride means being all overcrowded inside the coach.
But some passengers are asking, if the passenger load has gone back to pre-pandemic situations, so why isn’t the fare going back with it. You have to admit that that is one valid point. Was not transport fare adjusted up in consideration of the decrease of passenger load due to the imposition of social distance, then, would it not be just for it to revert since the jeeps could now accommodate the same number of passengers? But on the other hand, didn’t oil prices climbed up a continual escalation in the recent weeks that LPG now has exceeded a thousand pesos, maybe the drivers deserve some slack. After all, it has been more than a year that they have been driving around through chronic lockdowns, with a considerable portion of the population working or studying at home, and in so doing, not needing to take public transport, maybe they need some consideration to earn a few more for the family. But then again, how about the few pesos that passengers could save if fare goes back to pre-pandemic level? Would not that help the purchasing power of the commuting public? Personally, I don’t mind that much. These guys have endured complete suspension of public transport, limited resumption, resumption but with a list of regulations to comply so that they could roll down the roads with a clientele cut down to more than half. Then they could be stopped by cops because of failure to wear a face shield, or one of the passengers’ failure to wear a face shield. Then came the tsunami of oil price increase. Maybe the drivers deserve to be given some break.
It seems that school classes could go back to face to face sooner than we think with more parents saying “yes” on surveys. Hopefully, the eventual physical return of students to classrooms would spark the life on the stores and stalls outside campuses which have long been deserted like ghost towns.
“O Lord, by these things men live, and in all these is the life of my spirit; O restore me to health and let me live! Isaiah 38:16