Thursday, December 07, 2006
It had been a long haul.
Couldn’t help thinking this as I sat on a plastic bench in the LTO waiting area. The place was packed. Mostly with males of all sorts, a sprinkling of women, and at least one anxious mother accompanying her boy (who, by the way he looked at his "buddy", may actually be a girl).
Above the hum of a hundred voices, random names said over the sound system served as gaps in the recurrent announcements: please proceed to the cashier. Please don’t crowd up Window 10. Proceed to Window 1. Please take your seats and wait for your turn – don’t crowd up Window 10. Line up for photo and signature. Go upstairs to take the written exams. Please don’t crowd up Window 10 (I guess the average Pinoy believes he can hurry up an entire bureaucracy by standing before a counter and breathing on the glass). Wait outside for the test results. Proceed to Window 10.
The sunlight was streaming from the west at a steadily lengthening angle. The hastily devoured hotdog bought from a fast food crew member conveniently situated at the door was long gone. The bottle of mineral water strapped on my backpack only had a few drops left. And the cardboard folder I transformed into a fan was beginning to disintegrate.
Then again, whoever said rites of passage are meant to be painless?
A forty-something engineer/dad-type plopped down on the bench before me. He turned and told me he was there for a renewal. What was I waiting for? Oh. That usually takes a day. It’s really how things are the first time. He inquired about my age, and made a comment that I was getting my driver's license a bit late in my life – he got his when he was 16.
I nodded politely, only half listening to him; straining to hear if my name would be the next one called out.
Never bothered geting a license back when I was 16. There simply was no point to getting one. The last time a vehicle was parked in our garage was long before I was born. While I heard that some classmates got cars as high school graduation presents, all I got was a spaghetti dinner at home right after the commencement exercises. College graduation was a little better: a combo meal and a cab ride home from PICC.
Started looking through the Bulletin’s Classified Ads section for used cars when I got my first job. Back then, the second hand (well…fourth hand) car I’d eventually get probably still existed only as a sketch somewhere in Japan.
Back then, I computed that I’d be able to buy a car in about four years if I’d save up really, really well and give up certain luxuries. Like food.
Over the years, plans to get a car had gone dormant. Buried underneath bills, and deadlines, and hundreds of other things to worry about. I had been content simply to drive on the PS2. That is, up until a few months ago when I asked myself why not. Why not now?
From then on, wheels had been set in motion.
Leading up to me spending an entire day at the LTO.
Engineer/Dad had probably realized I wasn’t really in the mood for a friendly chat. He turned away without another word and busied himself with reading the papers instead. Which was fine since that was when I was called up to Window 10.
I got up and began making my way through the crowd that was once again growing before the counter.
Moments later, I was through the compound gates.
Relieved that I could get fresher air in my lungs (after spending a day in a non-air conditioned hall with hundreds of sweaty men, you’d be relieved too). Glad that I was, after all these years, finally licensed to drive.
I walked away from the compound.
And proceeded to look for a cab.