Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Me not paramecium

Nothing much has changed with the metro rail transit (MRT) system of the good old Republic of the Paramecium since my previous rants here in the blogosphere. People who run it remain unconcerned about the safety of the riding public. They are not doing anything at all to address the problems that stare them at the face everyday. They rely on the lure of modern technology and its promised speed and ease of travel to deprive passengers of the use of their human intelligence. The latter are thus slowly reduced to acting like those single-celled organisms that push their way through a crowded petri dish.

Standing again at that dreaded loading platform one afternoon with other desperate passengers, I noted in a zen-like fashion all these violent ideas wafting through my head. What if I aimed and threw a fist-sized rock at that fluorescent lamp or that overhead camera? How about landing some Jackie Chan flying kicks at the coaches as they pass by? Throw tomatoes or some paint balls at the glass windows? Anything to rouse anger and discontent among the other passengers, and make them see that they’re getting a lousy service.

Realizing however that I did not have even half the guts to do such nasty things, I started thinking of more creative, less confrontational modes of rebellion. I invoke the rights of citizens to go against and subvert any governance system that has failed to uphold the social contract. People who run such a system don’t deserve the authority accorded to them. Their incompetence should be brought out to the light of day. So here’s a list of what I’m thinking of trying out:
  • Pose as a student researcher and conduct ambush interviews with these automatons who run the MRT stations. Ask them a few enlightening questions that should make them stop and feel some discomfort at their own stupidity (if these are not too much to expect from them) or allow me to learn more about their moronic system. “Why are there so many people who are having trouble getting into your trains? Why are you charging people additional fares for not arriving on time at their chosen destinations? Shouldn’t you be returning their fares instead, since they were not able to get on your train (and that is what they’ve paid for in the first place)? Why do you keep asking people to step back from the platform's edge when you know they have to do that to have some chance of getting into your overflowing trains? Shouldn’t MMDA enforcers issue tickets to your trains for overloading?” This is called participatory research and its supposed to be a great learning strategy for both researcher and respondents.
  • Record on video some of those “dramatic” scenes from the MRT station: passengers’ faces showing a “just escaped from hell” sort of relief as they come out of a crowded coach; macho guys pushing their smelly bodies through the wall of humanity at the coach’s entrance; the big crowds that often form at the loading areas. One time, I saw two young men came out of a coach trying to grab each other’s throat. Too bad I only thought of taking out my mobile phone and its two megapixel-camera after they realized they were making quite a scene and just decided to call it quits. But videos of such scenes could be very good materials for Youtube or other file sharing platforms that are becoming popular now. “This is how we do it in the RP”, “This is how a strong republic looks like” or “People’s lives keep getting better in the RP” are some possible titles. This strategy involves shaming one’s people and culture, so I need to place a note to myself here that I should use this only when my capacity for self-deprecation is at its highest.
  • Try to get inside one of those overcrowded coaches with the intention of preventing the doors from closing and therefore delaying the train for a few seconds. This should rouse this dim-witted guy called “security guard” from his languid state at the booth near the front end of the train and do his job of enforcing order. Quickly get off the train when he comes near the coach or as soon as he asks people who were not able to get in to wait for the next train. Wearing a big backpack and standing at the right spot near the closing door should make it appear to the other passengers that you’re not really aware you’re the idiot causing all the delays. This strategy is called direct action and is meant to get quick results towards one’s objectives. This also calls for a lot of daring and extra preparation for any detrimental consequence like being arrested. Although if I could make myself look innocent enough, figured I could get away with two runs before I get a crisp slap at the back of the head.
  • Write an email or send a text message to policy makers and concerned officials. Yeah, I know one should be really dumb to expect anything good will come out of this. But, I think even the most hopeless paramecium could learn a few tricks given enough stimulus. First stop: the Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA). Got their email address: lrtamain@lrta.gov.ph. They have a feedback form on their website. Next, the Philippine Senate (yep, why not?): Senator Enrile (senator_enrile@senate.gov.ph) heads the Senate Committee on Public Services. The wise, although quirky, Senator Arroyo (office_sen_jokerarroyo@yahoo.com) serves as his deputy. Why not also text “Metroguwapo” himself, MMDA chief Bayani Fernando (0920-9389875)? If my hunch is right, the guy would be aching to poke his nose into the MRT’s operation once he finds out how this mass transport system is turning into a big rotten spot in his urbanidad scheme for the metropolis. This strategy is like reaching for the moon and the stars, but could be an effective anger management tool, just to let off some steam while you muster enough will to do more drastic things.
If you are part of the MRT-riding public, have experienced the same problems, and want to do something about the situation, you can add to this initial list and I’ll post an action report if I decide to actually try out your idea. Better if you also try out some of the things yourself and write to me about it. Let's show these guys at the MRT how to use a brain.

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