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The worst drivers in the world

There’s a saying in the Philippines that “if you can drive in Manila, you can drive anywhere.” Anywhere in the Philippines maybe. Manila has the worst traffic conditions in the country. There are simply way too many vehicles for the available road infrastructure. And the nightmare is compounded by the utter lack of discipline shown by everybody, but specially by the drivers.

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Cars are parked illegally, further constricting the already narrow roads. Public utility vehicles stop in the middle of the road to pick up and let off passengers, and many times refuse to move forward even if the stoplight has turned green. Motorcycles dart in and out of traffic, drivers blithely assuming that the other cars will brake hard when they cut them off. Drivers think nothing of getting caught up in traffic in the center of intersections, even when the road ahead is obviously not moving. The resulting gridlock forces the drivers to drive on the opposite lane. And the pedestrians. They cross wherever they like, even just below footbridges. Authorities put up steel barriers to prevent jaywalking but pedestrians just climb over these.

But if you think that this is chaotic, try going to most cities in India.

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Imagine the worst of Manila traffic conditions. Then add cows roaming on the street. And that quirky Indian habit of honking like crazy. Unlike in most of the world where blowing your horn for more than a split second will invite a display of the middle finger or worse, this is actually encouraged in India.

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As you can see, they even politely say please.

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During a trip in Lucknow, I was with a group of professionals in a minibus and the driver was just mental, trying to get us to a meeting on time. Vehicles were literally inches (or less) from each other but he was driving fast anyway. He kept weaving and cutting off the other cars, while us passengers were basically being thrown off our seats. The clincher was when we reached a congested bridge, and the guy simply went to the opposite lane and drove into oncoming traffic. Just like in the movies. While I had my eyes closed and prayed, the other Indians were just grinning. It’s a wonder that the bus didn’t even get a single scratch.

By the way, traffic in Dhaka, Bangladesh is as bad, but surprisingly drivers also manage to keep their dilapidated buses intact and dent free. Vietnam has a multitude of motorcycles, which gives the impression of chaos. But look closely and there is some sort of ballet choreography going on with all the driving and pedestrians crossing the roads. We didn’t see a single accident during a weekend there. Reader’s Digest named China as the most dangerous place to drive, what with a toxic mix of the American propensity to “play chicken” combined with the oriental compulsion to avoid losing face at all costs. But my few trips there were all smooth and accident free.

And then there is Cairo. Serendipity brought me and my wife to Megahed, who drives his own “tourist” car. He spoke decent English and was enthusiastically telling us all the sights along the road from the airport. So we hired him to bring us around the following day. At first we noticed that he was driving a bit too recklessly, like tailgating at more than 60 kph, but things got worse as the day went on. Megahed showed extreme impatience with slow drivers and even pedestrians, and tried to pass everyone else on the road. At least, in Manila and Lucknow, cars were inches apart, even in the most congested roads. In downtown Cairo, the cars sort of overlap, so overtaking means side mirrors will regularly scrape against another. Bumpers and fenders do what their names suggest they are for. Megahed’s driving style seemed to be the norm, turning the streets into a bump car playground. That was when we noticed that all cars in Cairo, without exception, had dents all over. Side mirrors were either badly scratched up or were barely hanging on.

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Noticing that I kept moaning and whimpering in the back during the trip, Megahed repeatedly looked back (while the car was moving) trying to calm me down by saying alternately  “Relax. Don’t worry. You are in Cairo. The last accident place in the world.” He probably doesn’t realize how much the last sentence scares me. Granted that he’s not a native English speaker, so what does he mean exactly? Are we about to meet the last accident of our lives, in Cairo?

Anyway, during the day trip to the pyramids and downtown Cairo, Megahed had five fender benders and even ran over one pedestrian while backing up. But what really amazed me is that every time cars bump into each other, the drivers scream what must be expletives at the other guy, and then go on their way. Megahed explained that as soon as one of the drivers apologizes, then everything is fine. In Manila, something like that happens and out come the guns.

Unfortunately, in the last accident we had, the other driver refused to apologize, resulting in fisticuffs and police. Here’s Megahed, about to tear the other guy’s head off.

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By the way, on the trip back to the airport, obviously we hired another driver. This guy was a bit more careful, at first, but near the airport he got a call on his cellular phone. He then morphed into another driver from hell, blowing his horn continuously at the driver in front, who he probably found to be driving too slowly. Just before he let us off he deliberately crashed into the car in front, then jumped out. We thought he was going to strangle the other guy but he simply hurried to open the trunk to get our bags. He got our money then left immediately. The other driver? He took like 10 seconds before he got out of his car, looked at the bumper, shrugged, then drove away.

Manila drivers are wimps. Cairo drivers are the worst in the world.

How to speak English like a Pinoy 3

More Pinoy-Englishisms:

“Represent”

I had to do a double-take the first time I heard this. Instead of saying “Present!” during roll calls, some Pinoys shout “Represent!,” apparently to indicate to everyone within hearing distance that he is not only representing the group being called, but is a total retard creative English speaker to boot.

“Convenient store”

Like the “7-11” stores being set up in every street corner for everyone’s convenience, this phrase is spreading like wildfire, to the utter consternation and inconvenience of grammar teachers nationwide.

“Don’t Get Closed To Me. Get Closed To God”

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Thank God these bumper stickers have all but disappeared. Some grammar Nazi must have seen the deliciously reversed meaning of the error and warned the printer to stop producing these masterpieces of irony. Might be the work of the devil himself.

“Let’s pray for the reposed of the decease”

Because of the excessive use of the past tense when not necessary (see Get Closed To God above), some Pinoys compensate by omitting the “d” when necessary.

“In fairness”

Joins “as if” and “worth it” as the Pinoy phrases that are incomplete, but are often used by themselves. In fairness to the ones using this, it sounds grammatically correct – for like 3 seconds. Typical usage, “Imperness, maganda siya.”

War of the Words

It’s a sordid tale of a rejected Christmas gift of biscuits, a May-December romance (if you can call an 89-year old hooking up with a 50-year old that), dug-up multi-million peso debts of dead people (legal or otherwise), and unequal show of generosity of what is basically the people’s money.

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Complaints about Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile’s uneven distribution of excess Senate funds last Christmas (friendly senators received PHP1.6 million, while four senator-enemies received only PHP250 thousand) reached a fever pitch the past week. Senator Miriam Santiago was apoplectic (she was one of the unfavored four) and developed a mild stroke as a result. Senator Antonio Trillanes again failed with a coup-de-etat on Enrile’s senate presidency (he tried to oust former president Gloria Arroyo years back, and got jailed for the exercise).

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Enrile’s chief of staff, lawyer Gigi Reyes, joined the fray by calling the complaining senators “hypocrites” by accepting the money the past years. Senator Alan Cayetano was not too pleased by the name-calling and made references to Reyes acting as if she was one of the senators. Enrile responded by using his debt-of-gratitude card, claiming that Cayetano’s father, a former senator and Enrile’s law partner, owed him 37 million pesos (almost a million US dollars). The rumor mill was busy about stories of Reyes being Enrile’s mistress. Gigi later resigned and apologized by saying that “the Senate stinks” (news item).

While all these were going on, a Canadian being sued for unruly behavior and due for deportation, went amok in Cebu, killing two people before he shot himself. Despite the COMELEC gun ban due to the coming May elections, John Pope managed to slip a pistol into the Cebu Palace of Justice and shot the plaintiff (a physician) and his lawyer.

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The Canadian bad boy then roamed the justice complex but failed to find the fiscal, whom he intended to shoot also. People are aghast at the waste of bullets at the Palace of Justice, when it could have been put to better use at the Senate Building.

Speaking of gun bans and foreigners, an Indian expat was asked what he thought about all these. “Gang bang? Oh, we have a lot of that in India!”

US minesweeper crashes into Tubbataha

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While on an unspecified mission, the USS Intruder Guardian ran aground in the famed Tubbataha reef, off Palawan island in western Philippines. Tubbataha is a protected nature sanctuary, and is among the best diving sites in the world. Boats entering the area must secure permits from the government.

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The ironically named Guardian is not the first foreign ship to wreck the reef. The likewise ironically named Greenpeace (flagship of the environmental activist group) was fined $7,000 for doing the same in 2005.

Leftist Environmental groups wasted no time in venting their ire at the American embassy in Manila. The crew of the minesweeper was evacuated from the ship, not because the Greenpeace or other protestors were in the area, but because the ship was in danger of sinking.

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Navy officials did not reply to questions why a minesweeper can be wrecked by fragile corals and marine life. Being men, the crew reportedly refused to ask for directions and blamed faulty navigation software for getting lost at sea.

In related news, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer denies that the company created the Minesweeper navigation software, just the game of the same name. Apple CEO Tim Cook likewise denies that the faulty Apple Maps app (sample screen capture below, guiding a road car) is to blame for the ship’s grounding.

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The 7th Fleet Command issued an order that henceforth, only Google Maps must be used by the navy.

Pacquiao votes “No” on RH Bill

Philippine boxing idol and occasional congressman Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao rushed to the Philippine Congress to vote no to the controversial Reproductive Health bill, which promotes contraceptive use for family planning.

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Front page headline:

“Pacman votes no even if he’s no longer Catholic”

Like the Catholic Mexicans he has been beating to a pulp the past several years, Pacquiao used to wear a rosary and make the sign of the cross during fights. He stopped doing these when he joined a Christian Evangelical group, which are generally supportive of the RH bill. Fans (specially his furious mother Dionisia) blame his religious conversion for his back-to-back losses to Tim Bradley and Juan Manuel Marquez.

Meanwhile in the Sports page headline on the same day (no kidding, Philippine Daily Inquirer 12/14/2012):

“Pacquiao to undergo brain analysis”

Australian Humor

Two Australian radio DJs are in hot water for impersonating England’s Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles. Michael Christian and Mel Greig of Sydney station 2Day FM called the King Edward VII hospital to check up on Princess Catherine, who is confined for hyperemesis gravidarum, a severe form of morning sickness.

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Incredibly, the call was put through to the princess’ private nurse, despite the duo’s terrible Australian accents. Another radio employee can be heard barking in the background, impersonating the queen’s corgis. Private medical information was apparently given, including the best time to visit the pregnant princess, and the issues of legal liability and breach of broadcasting rules were being discussed.

In a tragic twist to the prank the nurse who put the call through, Jacintha Saldanha, was found dead a couple of days after the incident. Police are considering possible suicide.

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As Mum always says, it’s a lot of fun until somebody gets hurt. Not so hilarious now, is it?

Sydney-based 2DayFM radio presenters Christian and Greig speak during an interview  in Sydney

Simultaneous with the prank radio call in Britain and Sydney is a mock TV address by the Australian Prime Minister. During a speech that any national leader dreads, or would never think, of delivering, Julia Gillard announces that doomsday is coming. The video was made to promote a radio station program.

“My dear remaining fellow Australians. The end of the world is coming. It wasn’t Y2K, it wasn’t even the carbon price. It turns out that the Mayan calendar is true,” deadpans the Australian leader.

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The Mayan calendar will be ending an era on December 21, which some apocalypse alarmists interpret to mean the end of the world. Scientists have debunked the myth over and over, but a significant proportion of people around the world still believe it.

Gillard assured her citizens that knowing her, she will fight for them to the end, “whether the final blow comes from flesh-eating zombies, demonic hell-beasts or the total triumph of K-Pop.” Australians, presumably except those who believe the Mayan apocalypse, had a good laugh from the stunt. The rest of the world, unfortunately, couldn’t understand most of the speech because of her accent.

In related news, Malacanang Palace denies that President Aquino will be making a spoof video promoting “Wil Time Big Time” which former girlfriend Grace Lee is co-hosting. Grace replaced another former PNoy girlfriend Shalani Soledad, who quit the show to marry another politician.

Best Sellers

Talk about novel (as in new, pun intended) marketing techniques. Two novels have made it to the best sellers list by being controversial and provocative. Not the novels themselves, but rather, the authors.

Book 1

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A brain surgeon rehashes the old life-after-death bookstore niche by putting a twist on his revelation of his near death experience from E. coli meningitis. Eben Alexander relates in “hyper-vivid” detail his journey to heaven and back while comatose, in his obviously not-peer-reviewed book “Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife.”

He claims to write “with the logic and language of the scientist I am.” And proceeds to destroy all credibility by writing drivel devoid of any logic, in language directed to the average book buyer.

1. alternately describes his brain function as “completely shutdown,” “inactivated,” or “totally offline”

2. “there is absolutely no way that I could have experienced even a dim and limited consciousness during my time in the coma, much less the hyper-vivid and completely coherent odyssey I underwent”

3. “While the neurons of my cortex were stunned to complete inactivity by the bacteria that had attacked them, my brain-free consciousness journeyed to another, larger dimension of the universe”

Not exactly scientific thinking and lingo. Except for his own account of a psychedelic trip on a butterfly, he actually offers no proof of heaven, just proof of what people will do to sell books.

He even claims that his brain “was simply off” as “documented by CT scans and neurological examinations.” This is the height of deceit as any competent brain doctor can tell you that CT scans don’t show brain function. That would be functional MRI or PET or SPECT scans. And nobody in his right mind will label somebody brain dead using neurological examination alone.

Oh well. Anything to sell a book and make a buck.

One result of his E. coli induced trip to heaven (complete with choirs and angels) is apparent damage to his cingulate gyrus. This is the part of the brain that tells us not to match polka dot bowties with striped shirts.

 

Book 2

The second book is a biography of CIA Director and war hero David Petraeus. He had an affair with biographer Paula Broadwell, who is also a reserve Army lieutenant colonel. Lurid details captured during email exchanges are extensive enough to make another novel altogether. Broadwell has been sending harassing emails to Florida socialite Jill Kelly, whose identical twin sister, Natalie Khawam, was assisted by both Petraeus and General John Allen (the person who succeeded him as commander in Afghanistan) in a child custody case. Kelly has been hosting parties for Army top brass in her Tampa home, and Broadwell was presumably jealous. Kelly’s friend, antiterrorism expert Frederick Humphries II (who once sent her a shirtless photo of him; insert own joke here) requested the FBI inquiry, inadvertently leading to the affair revelations. In case they make a movie version of this, the only creative writing needed of Hollywood scriptwriters is to keep it from running for more than three hours.

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Embarrassment and possible breaches of security from the brouhaha ended Petraeus’ distinguished 37-year career. Imagine the USA spymaster using his free Gmail account (which Broadwell had access to, among other accounts) for possibly classified matters.

The title of the biography? What could possibly be more appropriate than the arguably salacious “All In”?

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