6:55 PM. If I don’t leave now, I will definitely be late. It’s amazing how a fifteen-minute train journey plus a twenty-minute walk could be stretched to an hour. Sometimes more. I talk of course of the time it takes me to get from home to work during the Manila rush hour. It’s the line, you see. It stretches here and there, and curves like a snake, with its head and tail intertwined so much that they have become indistinguishable.
I enter the crowded platform and walk swiftly, dodging men and women who, like me, were trying to figure out where the end was—where to stand. Eventually, I find it and I wait, distracted by my phone every once in a while. Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. In exactly that order. Repeat. We are the wired people. This is how we cope with the line and the wait.
Impatience builds. You could feel the collective energy all around. People wanting to get home to their families. The few frustrated ones who are going to be late for work.
I peek over the side of the elevated platform and unto the road two storeys below to check what the traffic situation was. I was considering leaving the station and taking a cab to work instead, but all I see are the stationary cars with their red tail lights looking like a million little eyes staring back at me. I decide to stay. Getting stuck in the unmoving traffic will be another frustration I am not prepared to take on today.
The line moves slowly. Every time a train stops on the platform, only a handful comes out, not enough to let all the people waiting in. People try to compress themselves in the already crowded train car, pushing each other. People would be packed in so close together that you’d think they were made of cotton, like stuffed animals. Sometimes, a person could be locked in a certain position for their entire train ride, unmoving, not even with the inertia of the starts and stops.
I push myself out of the car. A combination of excuse-mes and please-let-me-throughs and sorrys. Then I step into another crowded platform with people psyching themselves out for their own tiresome ride ahead. Then, air, as I make it up the escalator.
I breeze my way past security and into the platform and unlike the crowded one from the night before, there was only a number of people waiting for the train to arrive. I wait by the end of the yellow arrowhead that showed where one should line up for entry to the train car.
Hours later, I do it all over again.