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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.

It Aint’ Easy Being Green

According to Yahoo! News, a couple living in the small European country of Jersey (sic), married in a Shrek-themed wedding, green makeup and all.

And I was like “What? There is a European country named Jersey?”

Paul Bellas, 42, and Heidi Bellas, 30, got the idea while watching the movie with their son.

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“The essence is that Shrek represents true love. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you look like, if the love is there then that is what it is about,” says Paul.

I don’t know. I think you should say something like that only when you’re good-looking. Definitely not when you look like an emaciated/anorexic Shrek:

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Or when you already look like Fiona (without the green skin) to begin with:

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They should be thankful that their son Leo doesn’t look like either of them:

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Registrar Sue Groves said: “I had to see them before the got their make-up applied as I can’t marry people who aren’t recognisable.” She claims to have carried out many novelty weddings in her time.

Yes, I know. There are weirder things going on in New Jersey, but the couple is from Jersey (off the British Isles), which is arguably an independent state. They probably should have just named the place Far, Far Away.

Happy Balentimes!

A short post to greet you on this day of hearts. Like “Wambol” (One Ball) and “Wampeso” (One Peso), this is how Pinoys greet each other on February 14.

A Social Weather Station (SWS) survey conducted in December 2012, involving 1,200 adults, showed that 54% of Filipinos were happy with their love lives. The other 46% were married.

The SWS poll also showed that 13% of the respondents had no love life to speak of. Some of the married respondents sometimes wish they were one of the 13%.

 

Pope Benedict resigns! Hell freezes over!

Pope Benedict XVI announced that he is resigning as head of the Catholic Church. The 85-year-old pontiff cited age (too much) and physical strength (too little) as the reasons for giving up the papacy.

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The news was met with shock and disbelief from the faithful, since popes usually serve until they die (John Paul II), or are killed (John Paul I  – just kidding, lighten up non-conspiracy theorists). The last papal resignation occurred in the 15th century, as the joke goes, when Joseph Ratzinger was still in short pants.

Many leaders of the Vatican hierarchy were caught off guard, with Cardinal Angelo Sodano saying the announcement came “like a lightning bolt in a clear blue sky.” Coincidentally, a photo taken during a rainstorm the night of the announcement (February 11) showed just that (news item).

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In related news, Satan released photos of Hell when Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, 89, resigned declared the post of senate president vacant during the height of the “Christmas bonus” scandal a few weeks ago.

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Senator Enrile, is of course, still Senate President at this time. When asked for comment about the Pope’s resignation, JPE reportedly said “Talaga? Bata pa yun ah!” (“Really? But he’s still young!”)

Bin Ladenland

Pakistan is probably among the last countries in the world where Disney will put up one of their parks, so they will have to DIY it if they want a world-class attraction. According to BBC and other news agencies, Abbotabad, site of the Bin Laden compound where the terrorist leader was killed, is building a 500-acre amusement park in a bid to develop tourism. Town officials said the $30 million park will be built near the Himalayan foothills area known for extreme sports like paragliding.

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Like the assault mission, things are top secret at this time. Loose lips, however, have leaked some of the theme park’s attractions being planned:

Shooting games
Using automatic assault weapons with real bullets. Shoot down enough of the targets and win a huge stuffed teddy bear or Bin Laden doll. Your choice.

Ferris wheel
Quite unlike the slow and lumbering Ferris Wheels in most parks, this one has the canopy looking like Black Hawk helicopter cabins. Aside from the rapid up and down movement, what’s thrilling about this ride, is that one out of two of the cabins is designed to crash randomly.

Zipline
The one-kilometer zipline will have you whooshing through the air at high speed, in near-total darkness while dodging live ammo, flamethrowers, and exploding anti-personnel grenades.

Cartoon characters
Under the full-body suits, some of these mascots have explosives strapped to their bodies. Suicide bomber style.

Water ride
A full-size mockup of the USS Cole is the main lure of the ride. Get yourself totally wet while you try to carry out the mission of blowing up the submarine.

Roller coaster
Even grown men will be screaming like little girls when they ride the theme park’s main attraction. The coaster is designed to look like an airplane cabin, takes twists and turns like it was being flown by amateur pilots, and then ends abruptly in what looks like the façade of the World Trade Center twin towers.

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.

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