Down Pothole Lane

I need Tacrine. Only about a couple of weeks of continuous rain brought about by typhoons Jolina, Kiko, and Labuyo, the once paved roads began—expectedly—to break apart. Roads that I have witnessed being layered with asphalt for months wherein every time I get stuck in traffic as a wait my turn to get past the construction team and their heavy equipment have made me wonder if these DPWH projects are now for real. These past few days I got my answer, a rather sad answer.

And yes, now I think that I need Tacrine. Why? What is Tacrine?

On top of recent controversies in the Formula world like secret Pirelli tire testing, an anti-doping body recently exposes that there are F1 drivers they suspect as taking Tacrine. According to them, Tacrine is a performance-enhancing drug that allows the race drivers to have an almost perfect memory of the twist and turns of any circuit.

Anyone who watches Formula One events would know how precise most drivers maneuver their way through race courses. Their ability to maximize apex speed while avoiding smashing—weather, track, tire, and Romain Grosjean—into barrier walls and utilize chicanes is just remarkable. Interestingly, however, other than days spent on track testing and impeccable driving skill, the anti-doping body thinks that Tacrine is also at work. But whether this suspicion is correct or not, I now find that this must be the solution to my problem—remembering the location of all potholes to and from my way to work like the back of my hand.

Now where can I get one? I badly need some to preserve my sanity and my car’s suspension system.

 ***

Mood: 4/10 Honks! (Sweaty, sleepy, annoyed.)

Blindness Falls

Darkness is the absence of light…and blindness is the presence of a oncoming vehicle on high beam.

***

The long wait for the part has come to an end. More than a month after my low beam conked out because of a faulty headlight switch, I got the call from my Honda service advisor informing me about the replacement part’s availability. And with this, the people whom I usually meet while on their way back home from a tiring work day will now be so grateful not to have another blinding encounter. To the tired engineers driving their cars, factory workers riding their underbones, Tagaytay-bound party goers, jeepney drivers, tricycle backseat passengers, village security guards, toll booth workers, and others — pedestrians, street dogs, and stray cats included — whom I have blinded, my sincerest apology. I had no choice but to drive on full high beam. Contact a Honda engineer for more explanation why its part no. 35255-S5A-A12 failed before its fifth year.

***

If it’s any consolation, I saw the light — my low beam light — again on 12/12/12.

***

Mood: 2/10 Honks! (Guilt-free driving again.)

(Book Review) Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do

Image taken from Google Books

We have all heard it and will likely continue to hear about it: “We Filipinos are bad drivers…no, we are the worst.” “If you have driven in the Philippines, you can drive anywhere in the world.” These and similar other statements about driving in the Philippines have made us stereotype ourselves and in effect made most of us think that the rest of the world drive in an orderly fashion than we do. But wait, this could not be entirely true at all.

If the author Tom Vanderbilt is to be believed, there a lot others out there who are worse than us and our perennial bad traffic flow – and yes, believe it or not, perceived by many as where traffic laws are fully enforced, the US is included. According to his book Traffic, Why We Drive the Way We Do, bad drivers can be found allover the globe and continue to contribute to road congestion, road rage, and accidents, not to mention stress, just to name a few ill effects of the growing volume of cars and other vehicles that are present at one time in one place.

I got my copy of Tom’s book only after two years since the day I learned about its release and it was only because it was on sale in National Bookstore by half its original price. But sooner I realized that the P300 plus I paid for it is a real steal because the 400-page paperback has a lot more to offer than expected. As I progress from one page to another, it stomps out that know-it-all and I-drive-a-lot-better-than-you premise I have had and which I am sure that other drivers possess as well.

Aside from rich facts about relationship (or lack thereof) of man, machine, and the road, almost each chapter of the book contains information never been made known to common drivers. For example, are you aware that car designers, other than complex mathematical algorithms, also have to deal with factors such human psychology and pop culture to cope up with the growing demand for mobility, thus the need for cars, and its effect to traffic?

“Traffic has become a way of life. The expanding cup holder, which became fully realized standard equipment only in the 1980s, is now the vital enabler of dashboard dining…Fast-food restaurants now clock as much as 70 percent of their sales at drive-through windows…” (page 16)

How would you feel if someone presents to you the idea that road signs invite people to violate it more and that by removing these will improve drivers’ behavior?

“Do traffic signs work, and are they really needed at all? This question has been raised by Hans Monderman…How foolish are we in always telling people how to behave. When you treat people like idiots, they’ll behave like that.” (page 190)

And did you know that our balikbayan relatives could be actually lying every time they smirk in the backseat and follow it up with that famous cliché “walang ganito sa states….”? Why? Because Tom Vanderbilt also exposes the US as having its own share of jaywalkers (Why New Yorkers Jaywalk (and Why they Don’t in Copenhagen: Traffic as Culture); traffic light-beating drivers; and motorcycle riders who shun helmet laws.

Released in 2008, Traffic, Why We Drive the Way We Do, contains vast insights, supported by references and citations, about traffic and therefore makes it a must read book for all of us who continue to wonder what causes bad traffic and if there are indeed solutions to it or if there is none, at least change our own perspective of how we and others drive so that we co-exist better than we do today.

***

Mood: 3/10 Honks! (We’ll be in Nuvali later. Driving with or without the low beam.)

An open letter to all car manufacturers

Dear car manufacturers,

Greetings from the Philippines! I’m one of those drivers whose daily commute has either brought me more wrinkles on my forehead (plus the accompanying white hairs) or, luckily, brilliant ideas about how I could help you decide on what to do for your next car models. I’m presenting here a list of those modifications that best fit the Filipinos’ driving styles and the country’s road conditions. Here are the parts that you should take out of the 2010 models as we really don’t find any use for each one:

Seat belts. We hate it. It restricts our movement and wrinkles our well-pressed working clothes. It also has this annoying vibrating sound whenever we pass by bumpy roads. Moreover, we use it only when we reach the toll gates or if we are apprehended by our professional policemen.

Side mirrors. The only people who find this useful are those outside our cars. It’s either they pick their noses when they pass by it or they pry it out for good just to be sold elsewhere and to unsuspecting buyers who may even be its original owner in the first place.

Rearview mirror. We drivers don’t care glancing at it every now and then when driving although our wives and kids love using it as a vanity mirror. (Well, in this case, retain it, but make it longer and wider so that my wife doesn’t have to lift her chin at a level where everyone outside will see her nose hairs.)

Turn lever and signal lights. This will result to a huge saving in cost and a significant weight reduction once pulled out. We change lanes here without even caring to switch it on accordingly. And while you’re at it, please take out the brake lights in the process. We don’t give a damn if its bulb is busted or not anyway. Lastly, do not forget to include the reverse lamp. At least, your designers will now have one less problem with the car’s rear part.

Speedometer. Other than being distracted by that illuminated needle or digital display, we don’t read it and if ever, we don’t understand it. Take it from our jeepney and bus drivers, they work every day and none of them ever look at it. Now, that’s one less dashboard instrument. Nice, right?

Of course, if I suggested removing the parts stated above, I would like, however, some additions or enhancements for the following:

Fenders & Bumpers. Back here, we need re-enforced versions of these as we need to compete with our beloved jeepney and bus drivers as they weave in and out in front of us. If you can add seven more layers to the paint, that will be a big plus.

Suspension. We need you to make those rally-grade suspensions built-in into our stock cars. With the way our beloved politicians and public officials build roads, we should expect more and more roads similar to what Neil Armstrong saw when he landed on the moon. Which reminds me, if you can manufacture one with several wheels like the lunar module, that might sell like hot cakes as well.

Brakes. We love stop-and-go traffic scheme. Yes, I know. You probably haven’t heard or even experienced such excellent idea. It’s hard to explain as even our traffic enforcers themselves are clueless of what they’re doing but they seem to enjoy it every time. We also love sudden stops whenever our jeepney and bus driver friends find it fit to make use of that tiny gap to change lane during bumper to bumper traffic. Of course, how can I forget our barefooted motorcycle drivers who find those narrow space a chance to practice their slalom skills. Now isn’t that compelling enough to improve the stopping distance of these current brakes?

Horn. This is actually my personal request. If you can put a lifetime warranty for my horn, then I’d be your customer forever. I love using my horn second to my brakes.

I’m presenting you an opportunity here. If you’ve made JDM or USDM cars before for the Japanese and American market, respectively, I guess this request to specially build one for the Philippine market, isn’t too hard to handle. You can then call it PDM – even if it might mean Poor Driving Manners. Consider this a win-win scenario even if it clearly looks more in favor for your business – you take out five (5) parts, you modify only four (4). Please contact me if you have questions about this proposal. I’d love to be of help if you need further explanations or in case you are wondering if I can actually suggest more things to be removed and modified. Let’s talk about it over the phone. You can call me even while I’m driving.

Best Regards,

 Cris

***

Mood: 3/10 Honks! (My side mirror was hit by another car on my way home. Perfect!)

Drive Like a Miser

It seems that gas price hike will be here for quite a long while for reasons that the average person like me would never really know. There are so many factors that affect oil prices and some of which could be the Middle East’s peace and order situation; the US recession which until now Dubya hasn’t directly accepted to be happening; China’s sudden automotive demands as most Chinese got tired of riding bikes that sooner or later obesity will be as common as dumplings in this part of the world; and locally, we can blame our government for deregulating the oil companies—but this is debatable.

So while we are busy thinking who’s supposed to be blamed other than ourselves, it may be just right for us to start looking at the mirror and check if we’ve done our part to alleviate the effect of this situation which is going way out of our control. Some self-awareness check will not only save our pockets and wallets but we also get to save our sanity and most importantly, our environment.

Today while lazily surfing the web, my mouse led me to Ecomodder.com which has an article about 104 hypermiling / ecodriving tips. Surprisingly, I’ve been doing most of their tips already. So here are my own top 10 tips that others may learn and use as well.

  1. Drive less. Avoid driving if you can. Just think about the heavy traffic you’d encounter on your way and this should already convince you stay put at home and do something more productive with lesser carbon footprint.
  2. Track your fuel consumption. Take a conscious effort to track your fuel mileage. Our Honda City’s digital Trip A and Trip B meter is a big help when it comes to this. By the way, please, track your consumption once you get home or has stopped somewhere. You don’t want to run over pedestrians or other cars while fiddling with your calculator.
  3. Leave early and don’t rush. It’s funny but I’ve been thinking of doing this. Having a car makes most of us think that we can hit the snooze alarm a couple of times in the morning with the assurance that we can beat time to work by driving like a crazy Takuma Sato. I later realized that beating the clock—and the red light—is a No-Win situation: you get irritated because you expect everyone to rush just like you do, and you get to pump unnecessary gas in the process.

    miser
    Not Takuma.
  4. Note your transition points. Ecomodder says ”If you regularly travel the same roads, make a conscious effort to note (memorize) the points along the way where transitions occur that maximize efficiency.” Planning would allow you to identify where to safely coast (if I remember it right, I read that it is illegal to coast in some states in the US), anticipate turns and brake points. Lesser braking, more savings.
  5. Avoid drive-thrus. This is to avoid idling. Save on gas. Save on fast foods.
  6. Windows up. This is a no-brainer in the Philippines as spitting in our country is not a crime. Do I need to explain further? Hahaha. Just my compelling reason for driving windows up. Seriously, it has something to do with aerodynamics (or wind drag) which has an effect on the gas mileage. And of course back to that spitting issue.
  7. Heavy traffic: play the accordion. Ecomodder says ”If faced with worst-case “stop & crawl” traffic conditions, leave as much space ahead of you as possible and continually “accordion” that space to keep your vehicle moving near a constant speed while the cars in front of you stop & start. Yes, some people will cut into the space you create ahead of you. Deal with it. Note that this may aggravate following drivers who can’t absorb the big picture, and that must be taken into account.” Well, I’ll try to deal with it. No promises though.
  8. Minimize use of air conditioning. Ecomodder says ”Air conditioning requires a lot of power. Use it sparingly.” Once again, AC on or off, don’t forget to keep those windows up. Believe me, you’ll thank me for this tip once you get to drive here in the Philippines.
  9. Be smooth. I think I qualify as one. Just don’t ask the jeepney drivers I’ve honked at which brings me to my top 10.

miser1

10. Don’t keep up with the Joneses. Ecomodder says ”It [sic] easy to be competitive when Resist knee-jerk retaliation to other drivers’ aggressive actions. Don’t let other drivers lead you astray from your driving style.” Now this is more like a test of my character rather than a test to save gas. The pinoy Joneses are the hari ng kalsada (king of the roads) – your friendly jeepney/tricycle drivers. I guess I’ll be able to keep up with this tip if I leave home early to work.

There you go. Let’s save gas the rational way and please stop sending me emails to boycott the giant oil companies–it’s foolish, it’s temporary and it just won’t work.

reference: Ecomodder.com

Auto Financing, Anyone?

One of the benefits of killing time is that I get to sit in front of my PC, stare blankly at the glowing CRT and instinctively place both of my hands on the keyboard’s home keys. This is also one of those times when I dream I have my own treadmill and gym set which could be a healthier way to pass time. So while I’m not there yet, I let my typing fingers do the walking for now.

Just a few weeks ago while unconsciously surfing the net like a “career zombie” trying to find a plan B after our company pulls out of its Philippine operation, I chanced upon a sticky thread on one of my favorite automotive hangout. The thread’s title is “…is looking for new talent.” That intrigued me. I can drive, I can do two-point reverse maneuver, I can blindly pass through Daang Hari at night and I can grab the hand brakes while my wife does a sharp turn that feels like 80 kph. So what could be better than these?

I clicked to read on.

To my disappointment they’re not looking for dummy drivers. They’re looking for someone who can do automotive journalism—still some dummy of sort. And so I thought that while I still haven’t seen my career plan B yet, I might as well make this one my plan C. I sent a private message to one of the administrators.

Unfortunately, I received no acknowledgment since then. I actually returned to the thread to check if my foolish mind failed to see the exact date when it was posted. It was just recently. Damn.

Today, however, while checking my emails after graveyard duty, I saw one from the car forum. My mind woke up in an instant and once again I fantasized being inside a brand new Toyota Camry to do a review, inhaling deeply and sucking all the new car scent it could offer, fiddling nervously with its keys while contemplating on what it could offer as it zoom past Cavite’s potholed highway to test its wide wheelbase and torture its suspension. But reality sets in just as soon as it has left me.

A line on the email says, “Can you do an article on auto financing? Make an outline first, then we’ll start from there.” He must be kidding, his reply confused me.  Thank heavens, Yahoo! came in handy. I checked what the blog world has to offer regarding auto financing and I didn’t fully expect what I found because the search tags are similar to where I’m at right now—in  debt, needs financing.

And in my current state, if I were to write about auto financing, I would have some of these catchy copies:

  • “Just got promoted? Reward yourself with a brand new car!”
  • “Is your company’s inventory piling up? Is your company getting less attention? Did the CEO just recently focus investments to Vietnam? Is your stock price in a plateau state? If you answered yes to all, screw it, grab a lovely car!”
  • “Best deals in town are all over. From 5% off, all-in offers, 3 years + 1 warranty, etc. So if you have a proof of availability, and (a pause and drum rolls are highly recommended at this point) a severance package, now is the chance to own a brand new car!”

Wait, did I mention what my career plan A is? Well, it’s to bum around for months while looking for plan B to Z. Ti abi.

Mary

“Freedom!!!” – William Wallace, Braveheart

“Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work and driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for, in order to get to the job you need to pay for the clothes and the car and the house you leave vacant all day so you can afford to live in it.” – Ellen Goodman, RD Dec 2007 All In a Day’s Work

I’ve been holding on creating my first blog for this New Year, 2008, just because I find my recent ones were leaning on my pessimistic side. And so for a couple of weeks I was like someone in rehab trying to control my urge to an addiction. I promised myself that I’ll start this year’s blog at least with some positivity in it. Well, I will try.

During the start of this work week—Sunday–I found a new way to entertain myself while on the bus to work: I shut the curtains, close my eyes and guess which part of the trip I’m currently at. Amazingly, I rate myself 90% correct most of the time I’d take a look out of the window. I did it again on Monday with the same accuracy. But on Tuesday, I got an email that implies I might not be doing it for long. Thankfully? The email says “Please claim your guarantee letter.” Hmm. The one-liner worked like magic that day. It was like espresso.

That was the start of a covert operation that lasted for two days. Every time I got home and asked by my wife how my day went, I answered half-truths and half lies. “It was another stressful day…I had a bad day.” I’d picture myself as someone tied to a chair in musky room lit only by a swaying incandescent bulb but never saying anything to my interrogators. Deep inside, I was grinning hard like Joker in Batman ever ready with a plan. The secret tasks include maintaining a poker face during our discussions; deleting any sent items on my cellphones and emails just in case she checks about anything regarding the subject matter.

***

D-day came.

After waking up early today, I got the perfect alibi–I’m going out for a birthday celebration of a colleague. I left home with my car documents stashed inside by backpack appearing to be just going for a casual beer party. Instead I was heading to Honda Cars Alabang.

I mentioned in my blog before that I’ve been there like a car buff’s ghost yearning for a subcompact sedan. Well that wish is granted at last. Just more than four hours after I arrived there and with several documents signed and payments (there goes my savings!) I got out of the dealership with Mary, our lovely new Honda City.

Hurriedly yet safely, I drove and went back home. To my surprise my wife still remains clueless when I arrived. She was thinking that the car was someone else’s. She can’t believe that it’s the car we’ve been waiting for. If I said I was grinning like Joker, I saw her grin like Jim Carey in The Mask when I confirmed that it’s ours. Yes, that broad. To say she was happy to see it would be an understatement.

We gave Mary a quick trip together to Tagaytay, grabbed some Starbucks coffee and headed back home. That’s our way of breaking in the engine and the cup holders. Sweet.

Now this is New Year. Our New Year with Mary.

And by the way, ever wondered why we named it Mary? The name is from my colleague who is celebrating his 50th birthday today. Bawi na lang ako next time. But thanks for giving me the perfect alibi.

honda-city
Worth the wait.