Tuesday, April 10, 2007

People will be pushy when they need to be

In the past couple of days I have been on enough adventures to fill up dozens of potential blog entries. I have gone from Cebu to Manila to Dumaguete and back to Cebu in the course of just a little over a week. But I am currently extremely tired and sleepy so for the moment I'm just going to focus on today.

I wasn't able to take the overnight boat from Dumaguete back to Cebu last night because the tickets were all sold out. Apparently I underestimated the post-Easter exodus of people traveling to and from the big city. On usual days, and even on weekends, there are tons of extra vacant cots on the boat so it was easy for me to assume that these accommodations could handle the massive holiday crowds. That assumption was, most unfortunately, very incorrect.

So the only other option for me (and for the doubtless dozens of other people who were unable to get a boat ticket) to get to Cebu on Tuesday was to take the bus. And since I have a scheduled time to get into office in the morning, I planned to take the bus at the ungodly pre-dawn hour of 4AM.

There was already a small crowd waiting when I got to the bus terminal 30 minutes early, when the bus to Cebu had not even come to the loading area yet. As the minutes ticked by, more people arrived and the small crowd became a rather large one. We could all tell what the outcome of this was going to be: The bus can seat only around 45 people, and the waiting crowd was growing steadily larger than that. The procedure for loading the bus was simply first-come first-serve, and if you wanted a seat on this bus you will need to fight for it.

The crowd, myself included, immediately stood up when the bus started to arrive. When the bus door opened, what ensued was a gentle stampede. People are generally civilized around here-- there was no shouting, no outright shoving-- nobody wants chaos, but in the absence of an alternative people will push and squeeze their way through the mass of bodies to get where they want to go. There's something really stupefying and degrading about being forced to resort to such uncivil behavior. I'm sure everyone in that crowd knew that this was not the most appropriate or efficient way to go about things, but what can we do.

I am normally one of the most accommodating people in the world, but dammit, I will do what it takes to get what I need. Amidst the squeeze of the crowd, I pressed myself forward to urge along a guy in front of me that seemed hesitant to intercept the flow and get into the bus. I only barely made it in there in time to get a seat at the very back. If I was an ounce more hesitant I would be stuck sitting on a stool in the center aisle.

This chaos could be avoided, of course, if they would just sell bus tickets ahead of time instead of letting everyone push their way in. I guess it makes no difference to them though... a full bus is a full bus, no matter how inconvenient it is for people to get on. Even in the City of Gentle People, people will be pushy when they need to be.

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