Driving Miss Crazy

Despite occasionally making fools of themselves in public, husbands fulfill various functions which are beneficial and important to society.

Besides carrying unwieldy appliances, moving heavy furniture, and opening tightly-sealed containers, husbands are useful for taking out the trash—dry or wet, plastic or paper—rain or shine, given proper training and motivation.

But of the many duties husbands perform, nothing compares to the task of driving their wives to their destinations, whether for business or pleasure.

As a skill, manipulating a four-wheeled vehicle through the city’s chaotic streets is difficult enough.

However, as an errand, driving your spouse—who is usually running late for an important appointment—requires the patience of a saint, the willpower of a workaholic, and the luck of a lotto winner.

This has been my lot for the past year or so, especially since my wife has refused to take driving lessons.

Although I continue to beat deadlines, I have also become my wife’s part-time driver, bringing her to various functions all across the city as the need arises.

God knows it remains a thankless chore, like washing dishes, fixing the plumbing, and cleaning out the cat’s litter box (all of which I have also managed to do).

But then again, I’m not complaining.

For services rendered, I have been generously paid with regular lip action, the occasional shake in the sheets, and vows of undying love.

Recently however, I have begun to doubt whether I have received just compensation.

Just a few weeks ago, my wife—a US government scholar—was invited to a party thrown by the American Ambassador to the Philippines.

Upon receiving the invitation, she conveniently forgot that she was married—an error which I hoped was accidental. I saw that she had faxed back a form confirming her attendance, which also indicated that she would be driven by someone identified as Robert.

It was an oversight I conveniently ignored, to my great dismay.

As the event drew near, I sent my blazer—the only one I owned—to the cleaners so that I could make a good impression on the diplomats.

After all, drinking free beer while wearing semi-formal attire doesn’t look half as bad as getting drunk with a T-shirt on as you feast on appetizers.

It turns out that I would neither have the occasion to wear the blazer nor drink beer, let alone any cold beverage. Nor would I have the opportunity to rub elbows with consular officials.

On the day of the party, my wife told me that she would go to the event unaccompanied—a euphemism which meant that her bitter half would be left behind.

Despite having resented her decision, the part-time driver brought her to the embassy, finding very little consolation in avoiding reckless bus drivers, wayward traffic enforcers, and posters of Bayani Fernando.

I wore a T-shirt and shorts, thinking if I was going to wait for two hours in the car I might as well be comfortable.


Photo above taken in Boracay during our first visit in 2006. Ms. Crazy never wanted to drive, then and now.

My so-called mid-life crisis


Wife and I

TEDIOUS professional obligations, internecine office politics, and intransigent subordinates have successfully transformed me into an old geezer–whiny, irritable, prone to various forms of rage (i. e., road, train, work, phone and of course, text-messaging). This is according to my wife, who has continued to look ten years younger, has managed to stay cheerful, and has successfully avoided conflict with any living entity, including but not limited to God, the Holy Trinity, and the various self-important fogeys at UP’s English Department.

Meanwhile, despite my very best efforts, I remain her diametric opposite, a slightly overweight, intense male whom many people refuse to believe is her husband.

Revealing these juicy biographical tidbits, I suppose, is my way of confessing that yes, I may already be struggling with a mid-life crisis, and no, I haven’t turned fifty yet.

But I might as well have.

Each time I climb out of bed in the morning, I immediately feel a general dissatisfaction with life and the world in general, an impression that has not been dispelled ever since I finished college and joined the workforce.

My difficult bouts of angst and anger is not in any way assuaged by a regular, two-hour, thrice a week session at the gym.

According to a friend who now has a wonderful life earning a huge salary working for a multinational firm, any physical exercise, if done repeatedly, is likely to produce some chemical in the brain, which makes you feel good.

Apparently, my brain has run out of the substance or has given up altogether.

After countless leg raises, sit-ups, and bench presses, I still feel no better than usual, only more exhausted and more inclined to produce sweat, body odor, and germs that cause athlete’s foot and jock itch (which, by the way, is worse than athlete’s foot).

This is not helped by the fact that the guys I get to hang out in the gym in between our sets are males my age who have basically the same complaints–corruption and the padrino system inside and outside government.

Take X., who from what I gather, is a jail guard who is as honest as they come.

Earning only less than P15,000 a month, X. has managed to keep body, soul, and integrity intact even though he is sometimes sent to go after dangerous criminals who were able to escape through the cooperation of their guards–the very same colleagues of X.

Now, how does one even begin to work given these conditions?

How does one continue to struggle, day after day, against a flawed system that will eventually work against your favor?

I myself have no answer. Nor does X.

But he keeps on at his job, joking that one of these days, he’ll set some Korean drug lord free so that at least he could savor some of the benefits that his colleagues have been enjoying.

Except that no one takes him seriously.

After all, if he did that, he’d move to a fancier gym, buy a new car, and get a better apartment.

But in recounting X.’s daily struggles, whether in between sets of bicep curls or turns at the stationary bike, I am reminded that my all of my angst–work-related or otherwise–are far too trivial to be indulged. While I may arguably have a mid-life crisis, I’m taking the advice carved on the paperweight of Meyer Berger, one of the New York Times’ legedary reporters: “Illegitimi non carborundum est (Don’t let the bastards wear you down).”


Photo above shows my wife and I onboard a ferry from Bellano to Bellagio in Italy. Quotation and story about Meyer Berger above taken from page 20 of John Hess’s My Times: A Memoir of Dissent bought at the Strand Bookstore in New York. (Naaks. Italy, New York, smart and pretty wife–and he says he’s unhappy.)

The Locked Restroom Mystery

C. in Milano

THE police officer didn’t understand the word “trapped.”
“What is trapped?” he asked me, giving me a slightly amused look, gesturing with his hands, which were wide apart, as if emphasizing a point in a high school declamation contest.
“Trapped,” I said, nodding, returning his gaze. “What indeed is trapped?”
I looked at the pigeons in the square, thinking how easy their lives were.
Every single day without fail, these birds got by on leftover pieces of bread people fed them.
Meanwhile, here I was, at Italy’s famous Piazza del Duomo, grappling with a quandary rarely experienced by anyone, both in Manila and Milan. No, I wasn’t hungry. Nor did I have to go to great lengths to get my next meal—it would come from my wife who held our cash and planned our no-frills vacation.
Despite the privilege of being in Europe, I still felt that the pigeons were luckier than me.
After all, as I was contemplating the various synonyms of the word “trapped,” my wife was locked inside a nearby restroom trying in vain to get out. So how do I tell a carabinieri in very simple English that my wife was trapped inside a cubicle with a jammed lock?
I was stumped.
But only temporarily.
After all, I was an English major.
And this was my one chance in a million to prove to everyone that a Bachelor of Arts degree—or at least the one that I had—was useful in real life.
It was very easy. All I had to do was to process the knowledge I gained in college and put them to good use. Except that I had extended my stay in college because I was always drunk and/or sleepy, which, by the way, explains why I also dropped my basic Italian language class.
Had I known that ditching Italian would prove crucial some fifteen years or so after college, I would have completely aced it, just like the time I got a 1.0 after taking a Philosophy course the second time around.
But then again, as the Romans say, praemunitos, praemunitas, a phrase which I occasionally use to show that I understood Latin. I don’t.
Which explains why I didn’t rely on my tertiary education when my wife called out my name the minute she discovered that she was locked in.
Like all neanderthals who mistakenly consider themselves heroes, I rushed into the ladies’ room, knowing that I was venturing into unknown and dangerous territory.
Fortunately, it was still early in the morning and the area wasn’t congested.
Of the three women using the facilities, only two were able to exit their cubicles with ease. None of them happened to be my wife.
To justify my existence inside the ladies’ restroom—and to avert any attack from formidable Italian women armed with thick leather handbags and stilletoes—I went to the cubicle in question and assisted my wife with the lock.
After a few minutes of fiddling with it, I gave up and told her that I would be back with someone to help us.
This now brings us back to my original quandary.
“Trapped,” I told the carabinieri. “My wife is in the restroom and she can’t open the door.”
Restraining his smile, the officer agreed to accompany me.
However, when we arrived at the scene, my wife had already escaped the clutches of the stubborn door lock. How she did it, I will never know. After all, she was the acclaimed poet in our family and I was just the useless English major.
“Grazie,” I told the police officer as he left, grateful that I didn’t have a hangover the day the professor told us how to express thanks in Italian.

Photo above shows a cheerful Conchitina R. Cruz posing at a statue located at the Piazza del Duomo, unaware of the dangerous consequences that would befall her while inside a Vittorio Emanuele restroom a week later.