It was one of those hot summer nights, in the summer of 2001. It was the kind that makes you edgy and sticky with sweat, which was why I was eagerly looking forward to go home (to have an early dinner and a nice cool bath). Since I had no car, I had no choice but to take the public jeepney which is normally jam-packed with people. I could see that they were also tired, hungry, and probably just like me, straining forward to get home fast.
But traffic was slow and torturous, so slow that we have to stop every few minutes. I could not stop myself from gritting my teeth in sheer frustration, and have to contend in suffering the long ride ahead. Left with no choice, we sat there huddled uncomfortably in dark silence. Some I observed were trying to achieve blank stares, while others were trying to close their eyes feigning sleep (probably wishing that they were already lounging comfortably in their homes). Let me tell you how we look. All the seats were full. Even the center aisle was filled with passengers sitting on low stools. There were men clinging on at the entrance of the jeep, and at that point, we looked more like people being herded towards concentration camps, instead of people trying to go home. Because of the density of the people in that very small space, there was less oxygen circulating around us. It was difficult to breathe, much more move. That people have to suffer in this condition in order to reach home is beyond my comprehension.
Our route was northbound going to Consolacion, and we have to pass over the Mandaue fly-over bridge. When we reached at exactly the midpoint of the flyover, suddenly a most obnoxious smell pervaded the small confines of the jeepney. I assume that the owner must have been suffering from an aching tummy, and had unintentionally released the toxic gas against his or her will because probably he or she could no longer endure holding it. To say that it was really bad is actually an understatement, because it jolted those who were falling asleep, and had us who were awake desperately craning our heads outside the windows trying to gulp whatever better air was available outside! The more the people in the center aisle tried to fan the foul air out, the more it circulated around us. It got stuck inside the vehicle, and for a while it seemed that we were all turning blue from holding our breaths. It was such a nightmare, and nobody could do anything! Everybody seemed to be fighting the urge to jump out of the vehicle. But we were stuck between a 40 foot container van and the ledge of the flyover. Even the driver who got the most advantageous seat muttered curses against the mysterious culprit and threatened to leave the jeepney just to be able to breathe freely again.
But the heavens can give kind justice to us who are suffering in this life. Traffic eventually unraveled, and we were able to move again. Sweet polluted air circulated back inside and we were able to breathe freely once more. I realized (as I walking the short distance towards my home that night), that what happened was actually very funny after all! It taught me one thing, that as we wearily plod along in this sometimes dreary life, something unexpected would spice it up a little bit!