She boards my cab with an air of disdain.
Can you turn up the aircon?!?!?! It’s so *expletive* hot!
I concede. Knowing that she’s right and I’m just a cabbie.
Can shut that stereo? Do you call that music?
I apologize as I switch the dial to turn the stereo off.
Not everyone likes pop music, I suppose.
We drive out of the city, into the southern suburbs.
She’s still disdainful. Complaining about everything and anything.
I ask about her day.
It’s none of your business!
That was the final time I try to engage her in conversation.
The sunshine yellow suit she wore could not hide her angst. Why is she so angry?
Traffic eases into steady flow as tree-lined streets became more prominent than concrete buildings.
We arrive at her destination. She pays dutifully but gets out without even a word of thanks.
It didn’t take long before my cab is hailed again. She smiles as she boards. She’s keen.
Manong**, there’s a purse here in your back seat.
No mistaking. The purse is filled with bills. Lots of one-thousand peso bills.
I ask the passenger to hail another cab.
I have to return this to its owner.
Finding my way back to the gated house that I rushed to forget, I ring the doorbell.
There she is, still in her yellow suit and still with that desolate frown.
Is this yours? Holding up the bulky wallet.
Her eyes light up. She begins to sob.
I’m so sorry for how I was earlier. My husband and I were in a big fight. This money is for us to pay our debt.
I smile knowing that kindness always goes a long way.
July 17, 2014 | Cebu City
A story inspired by a cabby and a conversation spanning the hour-long traffic jam.
** “Manong” is an informal term of address in the Philippines for older males. Typically used alone for people whose names we don’t know and with the name (i.e. Manong John) for those we are familiar with.