Wisdom > Car Life

The basic desire to live

Everyone just wants to survive on the road

The author has a new outlook on life after a very close brush with death. PHOTO FROM BOTCHI SANTOS

In 2023, my life was very different. I was at the hospital practically every day. Around me was so much pain, so much suffering, so much sickness. Many had death waiting by their feet, life almost sucked out of their eyes.

As a kidney transplant candidate undergoing dialysis and pre-transplant workup, I have never seen so much physical, emotional, and spiritual anguish. For many, it was a serious problem that money could not fix or even ease a bit, but with an almost inevitable end: death.

Many kidney dialysis patients often expire eventually if they fail to find a donor due to complications arising from the process of dialysis itself, or complications that lead to their kidney disease to begin with (oftentimes diabetes and/or cardio-vascular issues).

Ultimately, their eyes, like mine, though very tired and drained, all wanted the same thing: to survive and live independently, freely, and with dignity.

As a result of being hospitalized, the author forgot how the roads were like. PHOTO BY SAM SURLA

What does this have to do with motoring?

After getting mobile again two months after my transplant, I found the general driving conduct and etiquette (or lack thereof) appalling, having been desensitized from the madness that was Metro Manila traffic.

Motorcycle riders, private car drivers, and public utility vehicle operators were swerving, cutting in, and cutting off other motorists, stopping indiscriminately anywhere on the road, straddling lanes, or simply blocking traffic.

This drove me to frustration and madness—almost on the brink of a mental breakdown.

In one such incident, a motorcycle rider almost crashed into the side mirror of my test unit while lane-splitting, and we all had to stop at an intersection. I angrily looked at the guy, ready to give him a piece of my mind with my patience all but gone.

When I saw his face, I was completely taken aback: His face showed a blank, almost zombie-like expression, devoid of emotion. I had seen that same blank expression at the hospital months prior.

A little understanding goes a long way with others on the road. PHOTOS BY SAM SURLA

It was the face of someone who was barely hanging on to life, trying to get through the day, to survive and live againat least until the next daywhile providing for their needs and probably the needs of their family as well.

I probed deeper and harder, looking at the faces of more of these people that would normally aggravate me on the road: drivers of jeepneys, taxis, and even tricycles; couriers, messengers, and delivery people on motorcycles (and sometimes bicycles).

It was the same blank, lifeless state, bereft of any expression. It was the face of someone conserving his energy, finding the path of least resistance to survive as his day would be a long and arduous one, so best to make it as easy as possible.

I realized that despite how abhorrent their driving conduct is, none of them wake up every day and consciously decide to be jackasses on the road, intentionally being rude and driving/riding like madmen.

People often look for the easiest way out, hence the bad road manners. PHOTOS BY SAM SURLA

Their abysmal road manners are an inevitable consequence of finding the most effortless and efficient path toward overcoming the day’s challenges. And if you understand these people and where they are coming from, you may adopt a different, less aggressive, and less confrontational attitude toward them.

I saw a social media post about a motorcycle courier complaining thatafter working nine to 10 hours straight in this intense summer heathis income amounted to less than P1,000.

While the amount is higher than the minimum daily wage in Metro Manila (currently at P610 per day according to the Philippine News Agency), the risks and the added occupational hazard are truthfully not enough to cover their health and well-being in the event of any untoward incident.

Of course, this isn't a free pass to let bad road manners by. PHOTO BY SAM SURLA

People who ply their work using a two-wheeled vehicle have far more to lose than you due to the constant external dangers surrounding them. Likewise, PUV drivers, taxi drivers, and other people slog through their day on our gridlocked roads in the hellish heat.

The PUV Modernization Program is another issue that worries jeepney drivers, removing their focus and attention further from the road, while traditional taxi drivers compete with TNVS/ride-hailing appsboth four and two wheelsin search of passengers. More competition, more pressure to survive.

Of course, it does not excuse these people for their poor driving or bad attitude. They must be educated and reprimanded for their dangerous antics.

But if we at least understand where they are coming from, then maybe we can be less affected by these things, more patient and more relaxed when dealing with these individuals.

Sometimes, it's best to just let them be and go on with your day to prevent accidents. PHOTOS BY SAM SURLA

As for my part, I make a real effort to let them overtake me when crawling in traffic and on busy thoroughfares and at tight intersections. I try my best to give ample space to allow smaller motorcycles (and cyclists) steady progress even if I have to stop completely at times.

It doesn’t always work. My emotions (or pride) can get the better of me. I honk my horn and flash my lights in anger and frustration, but I really try to be more considerate of these PUV drivers and motorcyclists.

At the end of the day, we just want to get home, relax, spend time with our family, and live with dignity. Lets help give that to each other.

Empathy, patience, and understanding toward others who simply desire to survive and live should hopefully make driving in traffic a little more bearable.

Botchi Santos

Botchi is your friendly, walking car encyclopedia. He loves helping people choose the right vehicle for themselves as much as he enjoys picking the right one for himself. Expect him to write about car culture, test drives and car-shopping advice. His regular column is called ‘Car Life’.