by Esther Suson
This is to the conductor of the jeep that I rode down to Aikido on 15 December 2014.
There are many kinds of jeep conductors, and I do my best to observe as many as I can. None, in my experience, are ever particularly grumpy, or rude. They are there to alert the driver to potential passengers, collect the fare, dispense change, and stop or move the jeep on from stops, as the case may be. The kindest I ever saw refused to take the fare of a little girl who’d been boosted on so that she could get home early, even if she had to sit on the step at first. She’d been crying.
This conductor, the 15 December 2014 conductor, wasn’t a particularly kind case, but I suppose I should call him ideal.
For any jeep-commuter, the main problem is getting the jeep to stop at your stop. This has less to do with getting the jeep to stop than with you knowing precisely where you are at all times, as much as possible. The short, wide windows of jeepneys are notoriously a pain to look out of. At least near the driver or near the back you can crane your neck around for clues. Otherwise, you’re stuck looking at fragments of scenery above the shoulders of the person across from you, and hoping you remember which kind of fence or wall appears where. In the color-themed cities of Metro Manila, this can become quite confusing.
This conductor was ideal because he was very thorough. Not only did he remember every stop that passengers called out to him, he would call out when the stop was near. At the stop, he would make sure the passenger or passengers knew it was their stop, make sure they got off. After the stop, he would call out the next stop, just like a train conductor.
For a jeep commuter, when you are trying to keep yourself from sliding up and down the seat (if there’s space) or popping out of it entirely (when it’s tight), and attempting to locate exactly where you are at the same time, a conductor who does all the location-work for you is ideal. You don’t worry about drifting off and missing your stop (although if you lose your wallet, that would be another set of worries altogether). You don’t worry about where you are. You just sit tight, secure that when you reach your destination, you won’t miss it.