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The smelly guy in the jeepney

My endorphins were probably jiggling as I added myself to the queue for the jeepney from work to home. While most of us hate Sundays because: a) it means the next day is Monday, which leads to b) start of school or work week, or c) Sundays just really give us that lazy vibe, I work on this day.

As the barker called passengers to fill the empty spaces that our butts could barely fit in, I happened to look at the people inside the jeepney. There were employees from the different companies in the complex; a couple who happened to look like they did not have the same wavelength; a couple that seemed to enjoy the moment as their eyes and smiles sparked even when they were merely scrolling on Facebook; the usual mallgoers who might have just gone window-shopping or failed to find what they wanted to buy; one talkative female and her friend; men who were more interested in looking at the flesh of young, innocent women; a haggard-looking senior high school girl who blushed every time her classmate looked at her and was unaware that he hit the guy in front of them; and a group of three young men who wore the same shirt.

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It was almost 9 in the evening. It didn’t matter how each passenger differed; there was a similar look in everyone’s eyes that screamed “we just want to go home and rest.” The freshness in our morning faces had faded, and we were still waiting for that one last passenger before our agony could end.

And there he was, a big man, possibly in his late 20s, who sat beside me. Finally, the vehicle could move, I thought in relief. But even before the driver sat behind the wheel, I unintentionally smelled my seatmate’s odor. His skin smelled like it had absorbed all the world’s problems. I could see the stares of the other passengers around him. I tried to turn my face to the opposite direction, but the thin, hot air still brought his odor to my nostrils. I had no option but to endure every toxic element.

His arm touched my skin, and I could feel the hot moisture from his rough skin. Yikes. The fats below his underarm came into contact with my clothes, and I had to convince myself it’s fine since I was already going home anyway.

I looked at him and he smiled, but it did not help. It had not even been two minutes, and here I was now feeling dizzy, the yellow light clipped to the ceiling only adding to the

uncomfortable feeling.

I was just 20 minutes away from home, so I thought I should just endure the situation. It was impossible and embarrassing to inform the guy that he stank; after all, sometimes we, too, can be too tired to care about what other people think.

But my 20-minute ride home made me realize that the smelly guy beside me symbolized commuters who are rendered bone-weary by the daily struggle of school or work, and just want to go home, clean up and sleep. He might have struggled during the day. Was he his family’s breadwinner? Was he going home to them now? He might not even have a family, or a home. Nobody knows.

Smelly guy also mirrors the stink in our transport system. Why is commuting in the Philippines such a hassle? Why is traffic only getting worse? A lot of whys, too many to mention. The stinky smell is also the result of our government’s poor management of our traffic and road problems.

Of course, smelly guy could have applied a deodorant on, brought a face towel to wipe away the bacteria and sweat, or brought an extra shirt and changed before riding the jeepney, knowing that he would be sitting with many other people. Same thing with our leaders: Had many of them not been too greedy and self-centered and used their positions instead for the common good, our public facilities would be safe and reliable, and commuters would be spared hellish inconveniences and troubles.

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Smelly guy could be unaware of his situation, and no one had the gumption to tell him about it. It’s also the same when we witness people not following simple rules such as throwing trash anywhere, jaywalking or standing on the wrong side of the escalator. Do we confront them and tell them it’s not proper? No, because we are either tired, scared or plain nonchalant, so we look the other way.

Commuting can be really such a hassle, but it sure teaches us a lot of life lessons and experiences. It takes us to different roads and brings us to many places, enabling us to think of thoughts that our tired minds can only ponder on during that seemingly endless ride home.

Anna Guia Africa, 23, is a marketing associate.

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TAGS: commute, editorial, jeepney, opinion, public transport, Transportation
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