While the bank is located near a major intersection and a magnet for tricycles and jeepneys, most of the taxis zooming by on the main avenue were either occupied or the drivers weren’t looking and didn’t see us trying to hail them.
Across the street we were on, a fellow in a wheelchair, his thin legs bent at odd angles, began calling out and trying to hail a taxi for us. I have nicknamed him Wheelchair Hailer. My wife, Menchu, told me, “Don’t wave for a taxi. Just let him do his job.”
This is how it is in the Philippines. Nearly everyone works in some capacity regardless of their perceived handicaps or age or station in life.
There’s an older fellow who has set up shop at the intersection of the road we live off of and a major road. The corner where he operates is a natural stop for jeepneys and the tricycles who bear the jeepney passengers from the surrounding neighborhoods. Taxis pull in off of the main road and line up next to his makeshift stall. He covers their windshields with cardboard against the hot sun and hails customers getting out of the tricycles and jeepneys for the taxi drivers. The drivers pay him five, ten, maybe twenty pesos for his “service”.
No knowing how his operation worked, I accidentally paid him P20 the first time we took a taxi there. He took it (and I don’t begrudge him for it one bit) but thought it was quite funny that I paid him. He always has a smile and a greeting for us when we arrive on the corner and he’s become something of a “buddy” of mine.
Wheelchair Hailer Fails
Across the street from the bank, Wheelchair Hailer was still calling out for taxis and wheeling himself furiously to the corner of the intersection to better be seen by the taxis on the main avenue. He was having no luck at all.
Then his luck took a turn for the worse. Coming down the street we were on, to our left, was a bright yellow Maligaya taxi without passengers and the eagle-eyed driver had seen us. His turn signal was blinking and he was starting to pull over. It was a sure thing that Wheelchair Hailer had failed.
When I looked for him over the rooftops of the cars and tricycles clogging the street, Wheelchair Hailer was heading straight for us, his faced screwed up in disappointment.
Then, my wife did something incredible. She held up some coins that she had pulled from her purse and waved them so that Wheelchair Hailer could see them. He pushed at the chairs big wheels like a madman, weaving around the cars and tricycles, appearing and disappearing, trying to get to us. My wife was almost into the taxi and she handed me the coins. “Give them to him,” she said.
I craned my neck to catch sight of Wheelchair Hailer but I had lost him. Suddenly, he wheeled around the front of the taxi and was next to me. I pressed the coins into his rough hand and said, “Thank you, brother.” He gave me a broad smile, a quick “thank you” in English and spun his chair around to “finish” his job by waving us away from the curb.
My wife’s good heart, a man’s determination to work though severely handicapped, the way life works in the Philippines, these are the slices of life that satisfy most when they are served up for me to see.
photo credit: Gagamba via photopin (license)