Saturday, October 22, 2005

Driving While Female

Makati City has become more familiar to me in the last two years since my boyfriend lived there when I first met him. I know the business district passably well, certainly more so in the last couple of years than the twenty-three odd ones before.

I especially know the area around Greenbelt because I am there at least once a month to shop or see the latest film fests. And so, I know that there are never any traffic enforcers on that "Forty Winks" intersection (Pasong Tamo and that other street I forget) going to the Greenbelt 1 parking area. It can be safe to say then that one can harmlessly ignore the "No right turn on the red signal" sign post conspicuously planted next to the traffic light as long as one ensures that one is turning right when all the cars from the other side of the road have safely crossed. Yesterday proved an exception as two conspicuously planted Makati City biker patrollers, in their white polo shirts and royal blue shorts hailed me as soon as I ignored the politely offered traffic suggestion.

What is strangely funny is, not a few moments before, I was gleefully recounting to my friend Arlene, the finer arts of charming your way out of a traffic violation. She had warned me that MMDA officers are now in the full swing of the holiday season in their early collection of "pamasko" from unsuspecting motorists. I recounted my own strategies on how to avoid parting with your money or driver's license.

It is an advantage if one is wearing a low-cut blouse. One can position one's torso and shoulders in such a way that distracts and persuades like no uttered words or pleading can. If one has reasonably well-shaped legs and one is wearing a short skirt, then by all means, open the driver's door instead of merely cracking open the window to show them in their full glory.

One's chance of being let go with a stern warning and a 20 second lecture about a driver's responsibilities and whatnot doubles when one is lucky enough to be wearing both a revealing blouse and shorts or skirt. Lucky for me, yesterday I had chosen to don cream pants and a blouse whose neckline hugged my collarbone.

Unarmed with my weapons of choice, I had to resort to other talents. Since I am over 20, the crying, scared bit just doesn’t work anymore. Firstly, one has to be polite and respectful. Always say the requisite “po” or “opo” even if your apprehending officer doesn’t seem overly aged. Alternate between smiles and a “little-girl-lost” expression depending on the situation. Play up the damsel in distress bit on every opportunity given.

Officer: “Ma’am, did you see the no right turn sign over there? You just violated a city ordinance.”

Me: (flutter eyelashes) Oh really??? I’m so sorry I didn’t see! I was just looking at the other side of the intersection waiting for the cars to pass, as soon as it was clear I just made the turn.

Officer: (Stern smile) Your driver’s license please.

Do not hesitate to lie. But never attempt to do so if you can’t deliver with grace.

Me: You see, I’m from Kalookan. I’m not in this area often, so I’m not familiar with the ordinances. And sir, I honestly didn’t see the sign. I hadn’t seen my friend in a long time so we were busy chattering.

Officer: (cursory glance at my friend on the passenger’s seat)

One must not be ashamed to play the dumb chick next to the apprehending officer’s superior logic and smarts. One must always agree, remember always with a smile or a confused frown, with whatever he says.

Officer: Ma’am this is city ordinance we strictly enforce. You see, if I don’t issue you a ticket, you will not remember this violation and you’re likely to do it again.

Me: Oh, but sir, I assure you I will never do this again. I’m not always in the area. I swear I didn’t see the sign!

Officer: (macho man-ish) You do agree that I am right, that you won’t remember to follow the rules if I don’t penalize you for your transgression. You admit that I’m right and you’re wrong.

In the three years that I’ve been teaching I have learned that the tone of voice is a powerful thing. It can intimidate, inspire, move, censure, mock or cajole depending on the need. When it looks like things won’t go your way, remember to keep your voice flustered, a bit panicky and always, always sweet. Sweet in a little-girl helpless way.

Me: (breathy) Oh yes sir, I know I’m totally wrong! But can you please let me go on a warning just this time?

Officer: (goes to his comrade with the ticket book)

When it looks like you officer is unrelenting, offer to do the right thing and do your duty as a responsible citizen of the country.

Office: Ma’am you’ll have to claim your license at the Makati City hall.

Me: Can I get it today?

Officer: Oh, no. Monday to be safe. It’s already late and the city hall closes at five.

Me: Oh, where is it?

Officer: On JP Rizal.

Me: Where is that?

Officer: Err. You can reach it through Guadalupe.

Me: (confused frown, fluttery breath) I’m so sorry sir, but I’m not sure where that is!

When one has amply demonstrated one’s total helplessness and utter sweetness, one moves in for the kill.

Me: Sir, are you sure you can’t just let me go this one time. I’ll remember this and I promise never to do this again. What’s your name?

Officer: (flustered) Rolly.

Me: Rolly, I’ll remember this I promise.

Officer: (puffed chest, confused frown, utter resignation) Oh alright. Here’s your license.

Grateful, flushed with adrenalin after having scaled that tiny mountain, I drove away in smug satisfaction that contrary to common knowledge, women are not, in fact, the weaker sex.

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