Raise the train fares: The Podcast

Nothing but the best, top of the line equipment has been used for podcasting.

One good turn deserves another.
Or at least that’s what people say.
Unfortunately, this group of people, obviously anonymous — the very same ones who come up with maxims and aphorisms about life in general, the private cabal that dictates public behavior — seems to have failed to consider the alternatives.
One good turn deserves another.
I myself couldn’t agree more, whatever good thing (favor, event, etc.) that might be.
The question I just want to bring up is: What is the general consensus about bad turns?
Does one bad turn deserve another? Does it merit being repeated?

I myself have no opinion.

This is because I just produced — to use the term loosely — my second podcast after having uploaded my first a few days ago. [See: Raise Train Fares: The Podcast]
I’m still unsure whether the first podcast was good or bad.
As a result, I remain in doubt whether this one — an audio recording of myself reading a column that I published six years ago — deserves to be uploaded.
In any case, it’s about trains.
And despite the passage of time (and the onset of what might be called a pre-mid-life crisis), I still feel the same way that I do about train fares.
To quote a prominent lawyer-friend with a law degree, “train fare should be [calculated as] bus fare plus premium” because the former gets you there faster.
Not sure whether he feels the same way now.
After all, being a UP law school graduate, he’s got bigger problems,  mainly related to the Supreme Court, which I’m sure you already know about. [See: UP law faculty hits Supreme Court over plagiarism ruling]
As for myself, well, let’s just say I’ve got issues with Garage Band.
It’s not as idiot-proof as people say it is. I had difficulty saving my file in mp3 format.
But then again, you know how people are — they say things without really meaning it.
Hear that, Steve Jobs?
The podcast, processed using Apple’s Garage Band app, was made possible by the new purchase of an inexpensive RCA VR 5231 digital voice recorder.

Two reasons why I support an MRT fare hike

Passengers try to line up to enter Metro Rail Transit station along North Ave., Quezon City in this March 2010 photo (moonwalkerwiz.wordpress.com)

Wait a minute.
Before you call me elitist, anti-poor, or worse, a capitalist pig, let me just say that I am a commuter like everyone else.
Even during the time I had access to a private vehicle, I chose to take public transportation because I preferred to do some thinking — you know, like, thoughts and shit — while stuck in traffic.
In any case, I was unable to do much of that. (Not that that’s such a loss.)
This is because in this country, public transportation is the equivalent of hell on earth.
And there is no better example of that than the much-vaunted Metro Rail Transit (MRT).
Always congested and occasionally delayed, the train system built along the Philippines’ busiest thoroughfare has brought out the very worst behavior among Filipinos.
Passengers have pushed, shoved, jostled, and gotten into fistfights with each other just to get onboard. (Once, I prevented two guys from coming to blows. “Sige,” I said. “Dito pa kayo magsapakan.” But that’s only because they were in my way. Otherwise, I would have gladly done the world a favor by letting one kill the other — my small contribution to the Philippines’ population program.)
Similarly, many have refused to occupy the train’s interior for fear of missing the next stop.
Here is where the MRT fare increase can work.
Higher fares will cut ridership, reducing congestion.
Fewer passengers mean more available seats, leading to more comfortable trips, increased leg, elbow rooms, and all that.
As a result, less stressful rides will discourage passengers from stabbing each other.
Overall, passengers will be more congenial, smiling even when missing stops or while figuring out the gibberish announced over the PA system.
Anyway, here are my two reasons why I favor an MRT fare hike.

1) I don’t like to smell armpits belonging to someone else.

Don’t get me wrong here: All armpits are created equal.
Black, brown, or white; shaved, hairless, or otherwise, armpits around the world enjoy equal protection under local and international laws (including but not limited to the Rome Statute). [See: Rome Statute]
Under fairly reasonable circumstances, armpits may also be allowed to produce sweat and emit odors, regardless of their owners’ deodorant use and chili and curry consumption.
Having said that, I don’t like to sniff any other armpits except my own, (if absolutely unavoidable).
Unfortunately, riding the MRT — especially during rush hour — has increased my nose’s chances of encountering a warm but nevertheless sweaty armpit.
Any government that considers itself decent should keep everyone’s noses out of everyone else’s armpits.
Now, is that too much to ask?

2) Keeping fares at current rates is economically illogical.

Here is where we get serious, however temporarily.
I’m no economist but from what I’ve gathered — through anecdotal evidence, scant research, and crystal ball-gazing — people take the train because it is cheaper than taking the bus.
Yes: You pay fewer pesos for a faster mode of transportation.
Given the MRT’s congestion, a financial disincentive — through a fare hike — should be established to discourage passengers who are not in a hurry.
If you’re in a rush to go to Makati, you should pay extra to get there faster.
Moreover, if they wanted to, railway officials could hike fares during rush hour and/or increase minimum fares, at least for a short-term period of say, five years.
Besides supposedly reducing congestion, additional funds collected from the increase, if any, should go towards improving the train system itself and public transportation in general.
During those five years, the government should undertake a honest-to-goodness assessment of the train system’s faults. It should be able to rectify oversights and perhaps even punish MRT contractors for causing injury and inconvenience by building a train system that fell absolutely short of expectations.
In any case, I am willing to be corrected on the following points above. (Please reply via the comments section so that these can be promptly deleted. Or you can email me at j at jackthescribbler.com.)
Another creative but coño-tic approach: Replicate airlines’ business class strategy.
The agency running the MRT could set aside one or two train cars.
These can then be alloted for passengers willing to pay extra for less-congested coaches, faster access to turnstiles, and best of all, fewer encounters with strange armpits.

Another Manic Monday

MOST Filipino males of my age and temperament consider ogling women as risky as picking your nose in public: the closer you are to your target, the more likely you are to be caught—redhanded, as the case may be.
Nevertheless, checking women out can be—for the lack of a better word—fun.
If undertaken occasionally, without intending to offend sensibilities, solicit unwarranted advances, nor encourage a battery of feminist lawyers urging the judge to make a eunuch out of you, admiring uniquely feminine attributes is a breathtaking experience. Time can literally fly right by if you get the chance to closely examine the color of their eyes, the shade of their hair, the shape of their lips, the cadence of their gait.
This, meanwhile, explains why babe-watching remains popular among men, especially among those who are about to board the train along EDSA, perhaps Asia’s most inefficient.
Besides texting, manipulating their gadgets (digital and otherwise), and fingering their nasal passages (left and right), these unfortunate males have no other choice but to while their time away with any activity available. After all, that squalid, suffocating heap of metal Filipinos call the MRT has been unusually slow for the past week.
Just last Monday, while en route to Ayala from Quezon Avenue, I had to let more than five trains pass me by. Not only were the cars packed, big crowds—mostly composed of sweaty and angry men in a hurry—had already massed up on the platform. (This was repeated later in the week more than once.)
Since I had no intentions of rushing into the throng willy-nilly—the crowd’s collective smell was enough to disabuse me of such an undertaking—I sat on the nearest available bench, fired up the iPod Nano, and listened to Pat Metheny’s It’s Just Talk.
Five Metheny compositions and fifty pretty women later, my patience would be rewarded.
Not only would I be able to occupy a relatively spacious spot on the train—which only meant that the nearest damp armpit (excluding mine) was a meter away from my nose—I also benefited from the car’s powerful airconditioning.
However, these creature comforts—such as they were—would not be thoroughly enjoyed.
As my smelly companions and I approached Guadalupe, just two stations away from where I was supposed to disembark, the train slowly ground into a halt. For more than 20 minutes, the train just stood there, unmoving, impassive, an unlikely receptacle for raindrops, dust, and birdshit.
Meanwhile, for the lack of better things to do, the driver babbled incomprehensively into the public address system, encouraging every passenger to wish they were deaf.
Amid this unjustifiable delay, I was able to send a text message to my editor in chief. Besides informing her that I was going to be delayed for an event which we would both attend, I also gave her an update on my Manic Monday.
To make a long story short, we both arrived half an hour late for a press briefing in a Makati hotel. But then again, she had more than one excuse: not only was she the boss, she also came from the office where she worked on some stories.
As for myself, I only had three words to say: stupid fucking train.
MRT image from the guardian.co.uk