23 December 2013

The Theory of Relativity in Lipa’s Holiday Season Traffic Jams

When I was a small boy back in the sixties growing up inside the Base, a trip uptown to Lipa City took about 7 or so minutes. I’m guessing that’s about 5 or 6 kilometres.

What was it that Physicists said about time and space being relative? You don’t have to be Einstein to figure that one out. In the sixties, the distance from the Base to Lipa was thought of as ‘near.’

That was why, if Mom just came back home from the market then realised that she had forgotten something that she needed for the day’s lunch, she would simply board the next jeepney heading out to Lipa.

And be back with plenty of time to cook lunch.

When I started teaching back in 1982, the trip from my place a couple of kilometres from the gate of the Base to school took no more than 7 minutes. If it took 10, I would think the trip slow.

Now, look what has happened to this once-laid back city that I call home! What was once a 7-minute trip can now take as much as 40! Einstein needed complex formulas to arrive at the Theory of Relativity.
I remember this three decades later because I would head home at noontime each school day, have lunch and still have time for a power nap if I wanted to. I never had to hurry back to school.

Note this: the roads back in the sixties when I was a boy were two-lane and paved with gravel and asphalt. In the eighties, these were already paved with ready-mixed materials but still two lanes.

These days, the very same roads that I have traversed practically daily for almost my entire life are practically six lanes if you count the shoulders and smoothly paved as only ought to be in the modern day.

So why was it that what used to be a 7 minute trip took all of 40 last Thursday when I wanted to get a haircut and then go for some groceries later?

EDSA-style bumper-to-bumper traffic started outside the Base and crawled all the way uptown. There were several choke points.

First, just past the Elementary School in Tambô where vehicles exit from the side road to join the vehicular traffic on the main road. This ought to be a non-issue; except that vehicles going to the city proper need to cross the road to join the flow moving uptown.

Hmmmm… Flow… What an ironic word to use under the circumstances.

Next, at the entrance/exit from the STAR toll. The problem is never with vehicles going uptown. These merely integrate into the traffic. The problem always is with west-bound vehicles which need to cross the road. On ordinary days, the traffic slowdown is tolerable.

The holiday season, however, does not qualify as ordinary days.

In front of La Salle, of course, is a given. From there all the way uptown, I’m sorry to say, was like being in a hearse. I have, in fact, seen hearses go faster.

So last Thursday, as a consequence, I had to postpone the haircut and headed back home in time to cook lunch after getting my groceries from the supermarket. Thankfully, the trip back was not as bad.

If I had forgotten something like my Mom used to do in the old days, I would have gladly starved rather than take the trip back uptown.

It’s the volume of vehicles, of course; exacerbated by the holiday season. They have widened the roads in recent months, granted; but not nearly enough to accommodate the number of people heading to the malls.

This used to be a Metro Manila thing; and the reason I did not stay on in the metropolis after college was because being caught in traffic used to drive me insane.

Now, look what has happened to this once-laid back city that I call home! What was once a 7-minute trip can now take as much as 40! To quote from the hitad na Nikki Grace Lim, it’s so G-R-R-R!!!

Einstein needed complex formulas to arrive at the Theory of Relativity. But then, he probably never saw traffic as bad as we have seen the past few days.

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