Road Talk

Lessons you can’t learn when you’re high and dry


I still remember quite clearly when I was about 5 years old, I slipped away from the watchful eyes of a guardian, and ran out of our apartment in Quezon City and onto the public road to frolic in the heavy rain.

I remember having so much fun jumping like I was on a pogo stick in the gutter-deep flood. Next thing I knew, I was submerged in water, my small hands grasping for anything to keep me from drowning.

Then, adult hands grabbed my arms and pulled me up. My frantic guardian, profusely thanking the good Samaritans, carried me back into the house to get me cleaned up.

As for the open manhole I fell into that day, I don’t know if the local barangay officials ever got the kind of dressing down I received from my guardian and parents.

From that day on, though, that inadvertent dive into the murky deep imparted upon me an important lesson: Never trust a street that’s flooded enough you can’t see the bottom.

That life lesson served me well when I was a student and a young professional studying and working in Manila during the dry season, and wallowing/wading through brownish/blackish floods in the wet season.

It wasn’t just the open manholes I had to mind by then, but live electric wires that could be in contact with the street, the real threat of water-borne diseases like leptospirosis and typhus, and then that insensitive motorist who couldn’t slow down when passing hapless pedestrians in knee-deep water.

Oh, and above all else, I had to make sure that the clean change of clothes in my backpack stayed well above water.

Those years of being a pedestrian come hell or high water have served me well, especially now that I am a motorist nearly 95 percent of the time.

When I’m out driving during heavy rains, I make it a point to: a) be visible to other motorists and pedestrians (but not turning on my hazard lights as this may confuse other motorists when I intend to change lanes or directions); b) reduce my speed significantly to avoid hydroplaning, and to avoid drenching pedestrians I pass by; and c) avoid driving in unfamiliar routes during floods.

It’s not just the smooth flow of traffic that we should aspire for on our roads.

I often think that the rainy season teaches us valuable lessons on humanity, common decency, and caring for other individuals (not necessarily humans, too), more so when you get that false sense of security inside the creature comforts of your car.

When all around you people are soaked in apathy, insensitivity, and selfishness, sooner or later, you’ll have to face a decision: Should you stop and help (and move out of your comfort zone in the process), or move on as fast as you can, stay dry, and forget about that someone who needed help?

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