I REMEMBER as a boy, I chanced upon a poster that had clearly been inspired by the science fiction classic novel of my favorite author in high school, H.G. Wells. It showed spaceships, with men and women wearing fancy silver suits docked beside a floating city in the sky. Written above it was a bold title, “THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME”!
This had been my opening paragraph to an article that I wrote way back in February of this year. I know it could only be me, but isn’t it weirdly prophetic perhaps, that a downgraded version of H.G.Wells’ world had actually befallen us unsuspecting, hapless mortals? Little did I know that a few weeks after that article, a lockdown would be put in effect, and people in face masks and fancy PPEs would become a common sight all over the world.
In the place of the gleaming spaceships, the present-day public transport of 2020 slowly underwent physical changes. First, their carrying capacity to accommodate passengers had been intentionally diminished by half, to favor the addition of protective measures, such as plastic or wooden barriers that ensured the most minimum physical contact among members of the riding public. As an example, the tricycles that plied our Uraya-Mintal route used to accommodate six passengers. With a new ordinance in effect, they are now allowed only two. Because of social distancing, the same could also be said for jeepneys and buses. In a way, they have actually become space-ships indeed, because of the empty space they now had minus their usual load. As a countermeasure, an increase in fare had been implemented however.
At least in this city (because I’ve no data for elsewhere), the designs used in some of these social distancing measures for vehicles have been met with flak from common citizens and even among some medical frontliners as well. For one, a barrier which more than resembled a police riot shield, had been approved for use in motorcycles, to isolate drivers from their back-riding companions. Problem was, in most cases involving increase in speed, the contraption had become wind resistant, which in turn, merited unwieldy maneuvering and a few accidents.
In terms of actual contagion protection, some medical practitioners have also expressed fears that the plastic barriers used in jeepneys which separated passengers from each other, unless religiously disinfected on a daily basis, are in fact probable carriers of germs themselves, and could allow viruses, including COVID-19, to free bedspace for a few hours. At least in Davao’s city buses, spacing is strictly enforced, allowing one to have a single row for yourself. However, since the buses are air-conditioned, air travel for covid is likewise most likely, especially if one is not fully-suited with the 2020 space gear of mask, face shield and disinfectant.
So, along with all these significant changes that closely (or poorly) imitate Wells’ world, even the pinoy concept of passing the fare from passenger to passenger, until it reaches the driver, is sadly gone forever. With it and the rest of our new normal ways, we are all permanently transformed. What our final metamorphosis would be like, only God knows for sure. Yet personally, I do not even think that he cares because, like the free-wheelin’, self-important, arrogant child of god that we are, we will be deviant always, and poor covid is in for a beating.