27 January 2011

The Uzi Phenomenon

There was a slight traffic build-up just in front of the gate of the Air Force base when I rode to work this morning. Eventually, we all discovered the cause of the build-up. Something called the uzi phenomenon.

Whenever there’s an accident on the road, each driver who passes by slows down to crane his neck out the window to take a good look at what has happened. Nag-uusisâ, in other words.

The seemingly innocuous phenomenon has been known to cause traffic build-ups miles long along the highways. Not sure if this is a purely Pinoy phenomenon, but Allan, a co-worker who takes care of the school LAN, once wryly commented after being caught in one such jam that if he ever started a business, it would be one renting out huge tarps to cover up road accidents.

The remark was said in jest; but I have had enough traffic jam experiences to know there is not just a little wisdom to that alleged business plan.  In fact, it makes so much sense for highway patrols to make it standard protocol to cover up road accidents with portable tarpaulin fencing.

Once, traveling with the football team, we were aghast to discover when we were heading home that the traffic started to slow down even while we were still at the Magallanes area.  Although we soon entered the Southern Luzon Express Way or SLEX, bumper-to-bumper traffic moved at a snail’s pace with nobody seeming to know what was causing it in the first place.

It was when we were almost in Alabang that we discovered that there had been a road accident; and that it was NOT on our side of the road.  The traffic had slowed down because just about every driver on our side felt it was almost obligatory to do so to take supposed quick look at the accident before speeding up again.  I imagine the first few drivers who did slow down had no idea whatsoever that the by doing so the procession would eventually stretch all the way back to Magallanes.

Well, as it happened, the object of this morning’s uzi attention was a jeepney that drove off the road and dove into a roadside shop. I don’t know if anyone was in the shop when the jeepney dove in, but the driver of the jeepney I was in did not think so.

I certainly hope not. The wreck was not a pretty sight.

The driver of the jeepney I was in apparently knew the driver of the other jeepney. Probably fell asleep, he said to nobody in particular. “The guy does night trips,” he added.

I was just thinking… how thing’s have changed in Lipa. Just a few years back, I was always in a hurry to conclude football training before it really got too dark because, then, there would be too few jeepneys left on the road.

Thing was, if you took buses, you invariably ended up engaged in slanging matches with some apes dressed as conductors who thought buses were not for people on short trips and that the latter should take jeepneys, instead.

Duh… there were no more jeepneys after dark; but try explaining that to those apes…

These days, though, public transportation even in these parts is available round the clock. I’m sure our college had something to do with that.  The classes of the college upper years, because of the availability of professors, need to be scheduled as late as eight at night. Then, of course, the call centers came to set up shop inside the malls; and their agents go off-duty at the most unholy hours.

The rest was left to the law of supply and demand, ‘ikâ ngâ

So that driver of the jeepney that dove off the road… he was probably one of those who plied his route in the wee hours of the morning to take home the call center peeps… I just hope he’s alive and not hurt too bad…

[This story was first published on Facebook on 21 February 2008 with the title “Traffic Build-ups and the Uzi Phenomenon.”]

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