Tuesday, January 18, 2011

the empty

after my workshift, i hailed a jeepney to ride back home. it was early morning, just half past nine. there was only the driver and his "backride". here, a bus driver has an assistant that is referred to as the "bus conductor".he is the one that dispenses tickets to each passenger and asks for fare payment. with a jeepney, the driver's assistant is referred to as a "backride". it's because when the jeep is full, this person has to stay at the back of the jeep, by the door, to collect fares.

i sat beside the backride on the front seat. he is very concerned. i listened to him complain to his driver how they are not getting good runs. passengers are few and far between. they try to take everything in stride. at one point he asked his driver to stop by an ambulant vendor and he bought 2 pieces of menthol candy.  "Eat it well," as he handed one to his driver friend, "that's our lunch!". both burst out in laughter. it was just a short break in this otherwise silent trip.

soon after this, their luck seemed to change. the jeepney is rather long. it is a 20-seater vehicle excluding the front seat allotment for two. ten passengers can seat on each side. after some stops here and there, their jeepney is full of riders. the vehicle sort of took a life of its own. although most of the riders do not know each other still their presence took the melancholy out of the trip. now, you can hear animated conversation, snatches of laughter, even the bickering between two young students counting the coins for their fare. the backride asked me to slide over beside the driver as he gave way so another passenger can take the front seat beside me. the backride went to the back of the vehicle to collect fares. most of the people rode only for short distances however. pretty soon the jeepney was empty again except for us three. the backride sat on the front seat again.
"oh, it's so lonely," he sighed, "yes, we have this big vehicle, but without passengers, what is its worth to us?" he asked aloud. "every day i wipe the seats clean, i polish the decorations of this jeep, so we can attract riders, but it really gives me a bad feeling whenever we have empty trips like this." he pointed back at the two long stretches of vacant seats. the melancholy is back.

"we still have him," the driver is referring to me.

 "of course we still have one passenger," the backride answered, "but brod, if you're satisfied with three riders, you should have made this vehicle sit three people only. you should have asked those who made your vehicle to just do this with only front seats. you would have saved a lot."  i could not hide my amusement at this suggestion. i tried to picture a car with only front seats and with the back portion cropped.

"enough of that my friend," the driver said, "there are days like this. what is important is for us to always prepare our vehicle. keep on doing your job of prepping it up before we start our trip. if we always recognize the emptiness of this jeep, then this should be our motivation to try harder to attract riders in so we can fill up those vacant seats. try to innovate. vary the way you invite passengers to board. be lively! " he advised.

his backrider friend smiled at him. he fell silent for a while. i sensed he realized the truth in what the driver said. the empty seats must not be a reason to feel defeated. they must be the reason to try more. to do better. vacant seats must be their motivation to work harder.

he was not the only one who saw a truth in this. i realized something as well. i also often find this emptiness in me. after a mirthful sojourn with family, friends, acquaintances, after enjoying mouth-watering food, pleasant drinks, delightful music, dance, still i am left afterwards with an emptiness. a feeling of incompleteness. things of passing fancy can never fill up this void. this vacancy in me. 

the empty feeling.

this must not lead me to melancholy. instead this must prod me to take further steps. to seek more that which Old Sages avow will fill up the vacancy and bring me lasting joy. and where is this that will bring completeness, They say? It is inside me. i have to go inside more. to know the Divinity within.

i am nearing my stop now and i can see the backrider mindfully cleaning the jeepney's windshield.

and gently he placed a colorful route signboard against the clear glass for all to see ...


Christopher Dos Santos said...

Namaste my brother Sito. This was a most pleasant blog. Once again your attention to rewards you with the reflections you need.

In Lak' ech, my dear brother, finding love in minutia...

sito saguid said...

thanks for visiting brother. most times, if one listens hard enough, one will be able to mine nuggets of wisdom from every day conversations ....