“…Men’s lives may depend upon a comma.”

—Justice William Johnson in U.S. v. Palmer (1818)

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Mundane Musings

Just my luck that I chose to run an errand on a really hot day. I had not been out in the sun in a while and wasn’t prepared for its bright fury and scorching rays. Good thing I brought my sunglasses along, but it didn’t help at all that I picked today of all days to wear a black shirt over black jeans (Groan!).
My string of bad luck did not end there, though. As I walked along U.N. Avenue trying to make up my mind between lounging comfortably inside an air-conditioned cab and taking the long, hot trek to the LRT station, my right hand suddenly shot out as if it had a mind of its own and hailed the first taxi it sensed. "Ok", I thought."Might as well get in and enjoy the ride."
The traffic was at a standstill. My driver, a white-haired grandpa who looked like he was not a day over eighty, turned out to be a monster who hurled invectives at every vehicle that wouldn’t get out of our way (his exact words are not fit for public consumption so I dare not repeat them here). I couldn’t help but cringe as I heard from him all the Tagalog profanities known to man. In the background, the DJ was rambling on in her cheesy monologue and proceeded to play a song I was in no mood to hear. The noonday sun beat painfully down my nape, searing through my black shirt and the skin underneath, and I put up my hair in an effort to stave off the heat a little. As it turns out, my “comfy” ride was almost as old as its driver, with the air-conditioning about ready to conk out anytime. Sigh…so much for small comforts.
I wiped my brow and looked out the window, wishing I had at least brought a fan. The sky was a cloudless, radiant blue, and the trees never looked so green. It was a beautiful day actually, a perfect day to spend outdoors. My spirits lifted a little, but when I noticed the trees swaying gracefully (which meant that there was a breeze and it was probably more refreshing to be outside… Aaargh!), I felt hotter and more miserable. I wanted to open the window, but dared not risk the fury of the white-haired monster behind the wheel who was still talking to himself. While I was thinking that at least matters couldn’t get any worse, I suddenly felt something on my neck, then on my arm - a bug which I flicked away absently with my thumb and forefinger. As soon as this was done, I saw another creepy crawly, a bigger one this time, on the door handle, and another near the window. And another…and another…I lost count! Even my driver had one crawling up his arm (which he didn’t even seem to mind), and when I ventured a closer look, I realized it wasn’t just a bug but some other variety of cockroach. Ugh! I sat on the edge of the seat, as far away from the doors as possible, leaned forward, and nervously checked if the roaches had found their way into my hair.
Of course I was silently regretting my decision to take the cab. As my ride slowly inched its way through traffic, I realized just how much the little choices we make determine what our day will be like. Examples: deciding not to bring an umbrella on the same day you decide to wear open-toed stilettos to work, and it suddenly rains; deciding to use a different bag, and accidentally leaving your cell phone in another on the day you had an important appointment (which left the other person with no other way of reaching you), or leaving your wallet in another bag and not having any money for cab fare; deciding not to go to the bathroom first before taking the FX home after work and getting stuck in several hours’ traffic; deciding to wear the favorite trainers you hadn’t worn in a long time to the gym, and to your horror, the soles come off as other people watch in fascination; deciding to spend the day at home on the same day your annoying neighbor calls in for a visit; or, taking a cab against your better instincts and wearing black on a hot day… The thing is, once you’re in that fix, you can’t undo what it was that led you to the unfortunate situation in the first place. You just find yourself wishing you should have known better, should have remembered to do this or that, should have made a note to yourself, or, if you’re on a roll and things get really embarrassing, maybe even wishing for a magic wand to make yourself go “Puff!” and disappear. But at that moment, there’s nothing else you can do, but force a grin and bear everything through gritted teeth.
When you think about it, though, things actually have a way of resolving themselves. It’s also in difficult situations where you find a new friend whose willingness to help is a pleasant surprise (in these times where muggers and robbers rule the streets), or discover that your not-so-favorite person isn’t at all that bad. I guess if you try your best to keep a jolly disposition, a positive outlook if you will (hence the cliché “Look at the bright side!”), you soon realize that your situation isn’t all that hopeless and depressing as you thought it was; after all, you still have the most important things that count - family, friends, a job you love… It’s not a life and death situation, really, not as if you’re at a crossroads, about to make a radical, life-changing decision. So, big deal, the worse case scenario if I didn’t get to my destination on time was being late for an appointment or having to re-schedule. Unlike a lot of other people, I didn’t have to worry about where to get my next meal, or think about whether my children would have to stop school…or look for a place to stay because the landlady had given today as the deadline to pay up or move out and there was no money. I was actually a very lucky person in a very unfortunate situation, which I could very well  live with.
All at once, I knew how mundane and insignificant all my worries were.
As if on cue, traffic suddenly eased up. The taxi gathered speed, and what do you know - the air-conditioning was working after all. The creepy crawlies seemed to have retreated to their respective corners and were nowhere in sight. I glanced at my watch, suddenly knowing that I was going to make it to my appointment.
Much like good things, bad situations have to end sometime. I guess you just have to know what to do with yourself while waiting for the final wave, hoping that when it finally comes, you have enough leverage to not get caught up and be swept away.

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