Life in the Fast Lane


You Learn, Even While Riding the MRT

By 9:16 AM , , , , , , , , ,

Commuting is an interesting experience, to say the least. A number of people are surprised to learn that I do take the MRT almost every day (if it were up to me, though, I'd use Uber; but entities like the LTFRB fail to recognize how valuable it is to the public, apparently).

Actually, I prefer commuting to driving — not that I have a car of my own to drive anyway — because somehow, I'd rather stick it out for the sake of a shorter train ride over being stuck in traffic for hours. That is, if the queue gods miraculously cooperate.

So after comparing our own system to Thailand's BTS after a recent trip there, and after y-e-a-r-s of almost daily shoving, falling in line, sweating and melting into a puddle of goo, and being squished into what feels like a can of sardines, I have discovered the following (feel free to apply them to your own daily commutes... or not):

1) The art of secondhand entertainment.

When you have no choice but to be in contact with another person's shoulder, waist, hips, or butt due to the sheer number of riders, your eyes end up glancing at their phones or tablets. Through the years, I have had no choice but to watch teleseryes, listen to One Direction or Katy Perry, read cheesy Tagalog e-books, or witness amusing text conversations thanks to my neighbors.

2) The art of eavesdropping.

It doesn't matter that you're centimeters apart from each other. Some people evidently don't know that there's such a thing as an "indoor voice". So whether you like it or not, your ears will be trained to listen to gossip; be it work-related, marital (even extra-marital), or parental issues.

3) The art of contortion. 

Sometimes, you'll be in situations where you'll be bent in all kinds of ways. Perhaps this is one way to develop flexibility. If you feel you've gotten the hang of bending your knees, leaning your back in a ramrod position, and twisting your arms around the poles, then you should consider a future in a sport or discipline related to this.

4) The art of being a ninja.

If you see someone suspiciously eyeing your bag or belongings, you develop these extraordinary senses that keep you on this hyperawareness plane at all times. The next time someone attempts to casually sidle up to your bag, use your newfound ninja skills on him/her.

5) The art of standing firm... and letting go.

There will be times when you'll have to stick to your guns and not let people cut you in line. But, just like Elsa, there will also be times when you'll have to let go. Not every person who subtlely weasels his/her way into your path is a terrible human being; maybe he/she needs to get home because someone's celebrating a birthday. Or maybe he/she just needs to do Number 2 ASAP.

6) The art of developing calf muscles.

Standing in all sorts of weird positions, depending on who's around you (shorter people tend to lean on you, causing your knees to bend and your back to extend), your legs and feet also wind up in different stances. Your calf muscles will be engaged for sure.

7) The art of developing toes of steel.

Even if you were never a pointe-level ballerina, you can still experience how it is to have dead toenails. Just ask someone to step on you, which will likely happen.

8) The art of juggling.

You may not be a jester in court, but when you ride the train, fret not! You'll learn the proper way of balancing or holding on to your bag, your laptop bag, your lunch bag, and/or your shopping bags. Overhead, between your knees, close to your chest, under your armpits, the options are endless.

9) The art of sympathy.

Being just one entity out of hundreds or even thousands of riders will make you feel that you are definitely not alone. When someone has body odor, you're not the only one who will smell it. When a man refuses to give up his seat for a pregnant lady, you're not the only one who will feel enraged and disgusted. When a seeming first-time rider falls in line and is shocked by what he/she got himself/herself into, you will remember your own newbie experiences and feel compassion for that person. You're all in this together.

10) The art of making the most out of such situations.

When you're stuck in line for at least 45 minutes, sweat dripping from all sides of your face, unwanted thoughts can creep in. When this happens, learn to zap those thoughts away and use the time wisely. You can brainstorm on a project due tomorrow, you can think about what you learned that day, you can remember the last good experience you had onboard and hope for a repeat of that in the near future, you can be thankful for your blessings, you can compose your thoughts (like this entry; I wrote it while riding the train, coincidentally), and you can pray. Or you can think about your next meal. This always works for me.

Any other "learnings" (as my clients in marketing like to call them) you gained from commuting — whether in shuttles, buses, jeepneys, and the like? Feel free to share them! The more (informed we are), the many-er!

Mabuhay ang sumasakay ng pampublikyong transportasyon!

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  1. Haha! I love this post. I can totally relate, even if I've never tried the MRT yet because sometimes it applies even with jeepneys here.

    And your illustrations are spot on.

  2. Hahaha! Thanks, Rose! I'm pretty sure there are lots of similarities between riding the train and riding jeepneys. :D May the Force be with us!

  3. Shared this at Thanks! :)

  4. Hello, Meg! Thanks for sharing and for dropping by! :)


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