Sometimes, when driving, I reminisce the days when I was still learning how to handle the wheel. The past two years of driving spree were not glorious ones. I had my first car accident (with two damaged panels), learned how to live with a clutch, tamed the stick and pathetically cheered for myself while parking in reverse. I guess I am not a Master Driver yet who can drive, windows down, and let the public know how great, and good looking, the driver is—but I’m about to become one, with the good looking measure, at least. Haha. Driving can be a life skill, if not yet considered as one. As a skill considered as a necessity when I started working, I had no choice but to engulf good driving skills. Fortunately, I have been driving with confidence without worrying about the slippery flyover in Magallanes, swerving in the deadly roads of Commonwealth and taking a U-turn in Katipunan. Moreover, the car that I am driving now is automatic so I can temporarily forget my clutch magic tricks.
I might look good in a Car of the Year but the trip I regularly take is far from beautiful. I drive an almost 500 kilometer trip (9 hours, at least, ideal conditions apply) at least twice a month. Driving alone adds insult to injury. I will share the four phases of my psychological state as I survive this grueling drive:
The First 100 Kilometers. Driving can be exciting at this phase. I sing to my MP3 player songs and even dance to it. EDSA’s Hate Driving campaign can’t affect me. NLEX provides many stopover options where you can drink coffee and be jolly. I know that the day will be good to me.
200 – 300 Kilometers. My playlist already repeated. Songs of Lifehouse, Maroon 5 and Pitbull start to annoy me. Justin Bieber’s and Aegis’s songs start to sound good and addictive. I start to wonder about life and death, ask philosophical questions to myself (and answer them), and play with the idea of driving naked. The random, stray and wandering dogs, cats, carabaos, goats, chickens can compromise my safety so I talk to them as if they can hear me, in their language.
300 – 400 Kilometers. I start to become proud that I survived 300 kilometers but that feeling will fade away as soon as my odometer registers another kilometer. My car’s audio player is already silent because I punched it. The view of the mountains and pedestrian-free road might be comforting but its bumpy, rocky and muddy condition will take my calmed feeling away. Zigzag roads with a lot of slow, giant, 170-wheeler trucks test my already-non-existing patience.
400 – 500 Kilometers. I start to drive with a poker-face, auto-pilot style. Everything is a miracle at this point. I start to wonder who is driving because I am pretty sure that it is not me. I start to talk to myself about mundane or worthless subjects. And criticize the conversation after. I see dead people, too. Kidding. My car’s air conditioner temperature is at its lowest possible setting because I feel dead and no other inorganic climate can replicate death but a cold car temperature. My car radio starts to broadcast Taiwanese stations and I sing and speak Chinese in my mind to the point that I cannot comprehend road and traffic notices written in English.
When I am about to get off my car and check-in to a nearby hotel, I feel glad that I survived. I am alive again—patience is back and my English comprehension is normal again. This long trip I experience is one of the hardest tests of emotional, mental, psychological and physical fitness. I am pretty glad that I survive it every time. Even if I undergo the same route and the same set of psychological phases every time I embark on this journey, the test feels different because I try to be happy at first and try not to worry about suffering the same state as before. I am still learning to wear a wide, permanent grin and to breed neon, multi-colored butterflies inside my car whenever I drive such distance. For now, I just drive. Just drive, Alps. You know your destination, and I tell you, it is more beautiful than what you think it is, no matter how ugly the roads are.