The guy’s name was Corazon. I had to blink hard several times just to make sure I didn’t misread it. But there it was spelled in bold letters on his ID card.
It was my first taxi ride in seven years, and I opted to take the back seat. I kept to myself, minded my business, and did not stir, when, unprovoked, Corazon said, “So last night I gave the supervisor a piece of my mind.”
He peered into the rear view mirror, waiting for my reply. Taking my silence as an invitation to continue, he said, “And I did not mince my words. I’ve been through this kind of situation before. That one was with my previous employer, a Chinese businessman who owned a chain of stores here in Cebu. I don’t like being pushed around, you know? Especially by people who think they are so high and mighty. I just hate it. So last night our supervisor said, “This money is for the rental.” I said, “That’s right.” He said, “Where’s your day’s earning?” I said, “I’m very sorry, sir, but that’s all the money I earned for today. Can I give it to you tomorrow, when I make a little bit more?” The bastard, he got angry and insulted me.”
I glanced at him briefly. He tugged at his beard. I stared at the vacant lots we were passing by.
Corazon said, “So this is what I told him, “You bastard, you have no right to speak to me in that way. I told you that’s all the money I made for today, and I asked you, kindly, if I may pay you tomorrow when I earn a little bit more, and you insult me? You son of a… Are you the owner of the company?””
He laughed and added, “The bastard, he was speechless. It was probably the first time anyone has ever talked back to him like that. He cried. Afterwards, the other drivers congratulated me.”
I cringed every time he cussed, and I laughed nervously when he stared at me through the mirror.
The silence became uncomfortable, so I said, “Where did you work before?”
“I already told you, I used to work for a Chinese businessman downtown,” he said.
“One day, he berated me in front of the other drivers. He humiliated me. The bastard. Well, what was I to do? Did he expect me to just shut my mouth like all the other employees? No sir. Not me. So I lashed out at him. The poor guy was shocked. You should have seen the look on his face…” He laughed.
I stared at the coastal road outside. We were now over-speeding.
“He fired me on the spot,” Corazon continued. “Can you believe that? He terminated me without due process. Big mistake. I told him, “Okay, sir, no problem. See you soon.” He took me aside and said, “What do you mean, see you soon?” I said, “You will know soon, sir.” He suddenly looked nervous. He asked again, “What do you mean?” I said, “Exactly as I said, see you soon. See you in court soon.”” He laughed. “The bastard got angry again, but he also began to panic. He yelled, “How dare you? Who do you think you are? You are just a lowly driver. A lowly, good-for-nothing, ungrateful moron of a driver. Tell me, who the hell do you think you are?” I said, “Oh, I agree with you sir, I’m just a nobody.” He feigned laughter and said, “The audacity of this imbecile. You? Sue me? You have nothing against me. You are nothing to me. I can easily crush you like the cockroach that you are.” So I said, “Let me ask you, sir, have you ever given me the correct minimum pay? No. Have you ever paid for my SSS? No. Have you ever paid for my PhilHealth? No. How about my overtime pays, sick leaves, and vacation leaves? No, no, and no.” His face contorted as he began to force himself to smile. He said, “Nong, let’s stop this silly talk right now. What have we been saying? This is me. We’ve been through a lot over the years. Let’s stop this nonsense. Let’s not do something foolish. Tell you what, I’ll give you your job back, okay? Just promise me you won’t do it again, okay?” I said, “No thanks, sir. I’ve served you long enough, it’s time for me to move on.” Then he cried and begged me, and I spat on the floor. I was laughing all the way home. The bastard.” His loud voice boomed again and again. I could hardly hear the music he was playing. “I could see through his scheme, you see. He could have very easily framed me up for something and put me in jail. But I’m not an idiot. I know better.”
I nodded. He examined me through the mirror.
“That’s too bad,” I said. “He should have given you the correct pay and benefits.”
“Of course,” he said. He stared straight ahead, and then observed me. “Where are you headed, by the way, sir?”
“Oh, in Cebu Doctors’.”
“Okay. Are you a doctor?”
“No, I’m a nurse.”
“That’s nice. Many of the nurses in our country are unemployed. You’re lucky to have a job in a hospital, sir.”
“Some are not very fortunate. Like this nurse who ended up in the Mactan Channel yesterday.”
“Haven’t you heard about it yet? It’s all over the news today. He was murdered and tossed into the sea. He was still wearing his uniform when they fished him out. Good thing he had with him his ID, otherwise…”
“That’s shocking! I haven’t heard about it yet.” I shook my head.
“Well, that’s life. It’s short. One day you’re fortunate, the next day you run out of luck.”
I checked the clock and the meter on the dashboard. I looked at the taxi’s plate number and company name on the door.
“So anyway, these bastards,” he resumed, ” I mean, my bosses, deserved what they got. That reminds me of another incident with this other employer of mine a long, long time ago. It was my first job.”
I listened to his rant silently for another half hour. Occasionally, he shook his fist and banged the steering wheel as he related one grievance after another. By the time I got to the hospital, my head was reverberating with threats and curses.
“How much do I owe you?” I said.
“Four hundred and fifty pesos only, sir,” he said.
I was incredulous. “Are you sure?”
He turned around and looked me straight in the eye. “Are you saying I’m cheating you, sir?” He did not blink.
“No, not at all.”
“Then what’s the problem? Are you saying you’re not going to pay?”
“Of course, I’m paying.” I opened my wallet. “It’s just that… a trip to the city usually costs me less than two hundred pesos.”
“So you’re saying I’m a liar?”
“No, of course not. Never mind. Here’s four hundred and sixty. Keep the change.”
I stepped out of the taxi and onto the curb just in time before it sped away. It left behind a thick cloud of black smoke.