“Show us your b*tch face.”
“My what?!” I asked.
“Your b*tch face,” came the reply. “If you’re going to ride the jeep, you need a b*tch face.”
That conversation happened last week, on a Wednesday, the day I planned on starting my week of tricycle and jeepney riding. I was sitting atand telling the Homegrown team that I was going to be going home via jeepney that day. They all pounced on me, telling me the many reasons why I was not ready to take a jeepney that day.
“You can’t wear nice clothes or have any jewellery on. People get held up on jeepneys. Sometimes they hold up the whole jeep.”
“Don’t bring your phone with you. Don’t show them you have a phone.”
“You need an umbrella. Even if it isn’t raining. You need a weapon.”
It was a good five minutes of the many reasons why I should not ride a jeepney. So I relented. Okay, no jeep on that day, but that did’t mean I was turning my back on my project.
I designated today as my jeepney and tricycle day. I did take all of their advice. I picked out plain blue jeans and a white shirt to wear. I left my cellphone at home. I stuck the amount of money I figured I’d need in my pocket, and I took an old army bag that I bought in a surplus store in San Francisco years ago and put a book and some of the papers I needed in it. Then I set off to do my errands, which consisted of going to the bank, going to the grocery store, dropping by a bookstore, then heading back home.
During the course of the trip, I rode three jeepneys and two tricycles, and these are the things I noticed…
1) Jeepneys decorate too!
Apart from the fact that the side of the jeepney is painted very colourfully, and each jeepney is painted uniquely, the interior is interestingly decorated as well. Drivers’ dashboards are–for lack of a better word–cluttered with religious symbols, furry die, fresh flowers (sampaguita,) and other toys. Around the jeepney, there is a poster or two. I saw one poster that was basically an infographic on how sexual harassment is a crime. The tricycles I rode had no decoration.
Thing I appreciated: A trash bin near the driver’s bench of the jeepney. That’s one way to keep the communal space clean. My favourite trash bin had the words “Oh my love, my darling, I hunger for your TRASH” written on it.
2) Tricycles are more expensive
The jeepneys I took charged Php13.00 for a pretty long trip. Tricycles charge Php15.00 tofor a quick hop. This could be the whole “privacy” thing again, where you don’t have to share the tricycle with anyone so you pay a little more, but it didn’t quite make sense to me.
3) You need to be aware of jeepney terminals
One of my jeepney rides was a complete failure. I paid for a full trip only to end up about a block and a half from where we began, at a jeepney terminal. The driver explained that this is where everyone needed to get down for that particular ride. I suppose I had read the side of his jeepney (where the route that they take is written down) incorrectly. So I had to get down and start again. Had I known though, I just would have walked to the terminal.
There are also tricycle stops where there is a system for which tricycle driver gets to give the passengers a ride. I suppose this is meant to make things fair, but a little frustrating when you’re far from the stop and a tricycle that is passing by refuses to take you and tells you to just walk to the tricycle stop.
4) Jeepney drivers must be great at math
Every time someone gives them payment, which is passed down the line to the driver, the driver looks at the person using the massive rearview mirror, calculates the change needed, and hands it back down. A couple of times, several people paid at once. Without flinching, he gave about five people their exact change. That’s pretty amazing.
5) Jeepneys have become avenues for advertising
I saw a jeepney with a SMART ad on its front and sides. I felt happy that the jeepney must be getting extra income by taking on an advertisement. It looked a lot cleaner too.
6) I should have brought a fan
Neither of these modes of transportation have air-conditioning; something I knew from the get-go, but as I was riding, I realised that I should have brought a fan. This is especially true for the jeepney, which is far less breezy than the tricycle, especially when it fills up with people.
Speaking of the jeep filling up with people… In case some of the members of Team Homegrown are wondering, I did not sing the song I was telling them about. I did hum it though, and the man sitting across me smiled. I am hoping that made his day.?