Manila has some of the worst drivers on the face of the earth.
Yeah, yeah, I know. That's big talk, coming from one who has almost no experience behind the wheel at all. But while I'm walking on my own two feet, chances are that you're sitting in the front seat of your own vehicle. Chances are that you've cursed at the other people on the road, wondered why the hell they do the things they do, and all in all, observed the very same thing that I'm pointing out at this very moment.
So I'm sorry to say this, but you know perfectly well that it's true: Manila has some of the worst drivers on the face of the earth.
I bring this up because of a little incident earlier today. If you weren't up that early to get to work, I'll fill you in: Early this morning, a truck figured in an accident along one of the city's major highways. It was carrying a full load of ethanol when it crashed into a post near the entrance to a tunnel, which apparently punctured one of its tanks. The next thing we knew, the area was inundated with ethanol, and we had one of the nastiest traffic snarls in recent memory.
And just to put the icing on the cake, I must point out that ethanol is flammable, that it gives off a terrible odor (especially when a lot of it has spilled out on the street), and that we're talking about the most populous highway in the city here. The result was, in a colleague's words, "the most compelling excuse to give up and go home."
I've read somewhere that the truck's driver claimed that he was trying to avoid a speeding bus, and that the police doubt him very much. I've also noted that the truck practically turned turtle during the progression of the stunt, and I find that interesting -- it almost certainly indicates that a high rate of speed was involved. Whether the issue at hand was an errant bus or a speeding truck, though, I wouldn't be surprised either way.
And in a sense, it's not just the truck from this morning. It's the jeepneys that stop to let off passengers in the middle of the road. It's the drivers who fail to signal or turn on their blinkers whenever they try something fancy. It's the taxis that decide to make a left turn from the rightmost lane, the motorcycles that weave between idling vehicles, the massive sixteen-wheelers who take shortcuts through quiet neighborhoods and tiny side streets.
It's the people who run red lights. It's the people who go against traffic. It's the people who speed through pedestrian crossings. It's the people who get up at two in the morning to race on supposedly empty streets. It's the people who invest in sirens and strange-sounding horns with no good reason at all. It's the people who think that sitting in the driver's seat puts them on a certain pedestal, a high-and-mighty position that tells them that they own the road, and that everybody else is an opposing force against whom they can compete.
Between the haphazard streetworks, the corrupt cops and the bad asphalt, we have enough things to worry about. If there's anything that should send us over the edge, it should be a lot less than a speeding truck driver who suddenly refused to take responsibility for what he perfectly knew to be flammable cargo.
You can say a lot about humanity, but one thing that you can't deny is our tendency to be completely and creatively self-destructive.
Sometimes I'm surprised that we're still kicking around.