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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.

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Saturday, July 02, 2005

entry arrow12:05 AM | Little Complaints

There is a gnawing inside me to rant. Perhaps because the end of June has come, and with it, we have finally come to the middle part of our year. If life must be defined by the span of each year, then the end of June is that doldrums of days when we start to hesitantly consider the sobering realities of our lives, mid-range. Think about it: the end of June is already so far from the wishful resolutions made at the beginning of year, and yet it is also the start in our approach to another year's end. In June's end, we all finally take pause, and ask ourselves, how does this life go?

Sometimes, for most of us, the answer is in the exasperating middlingness of the "so-so."

"I'm coping," we say, as if in the defensive -- and then, when we finally take in all the news of the day, we seem to quietly surrender to a kind of despair.

And so we rant. Often silently.

We rant about the rain and the tracks of mud we leave with each of our steps. The days are cold, and the nights even more so. What better way to spend the cold days than to let off steam? There are reasons to rant, hundreds of them. Often without the slightest warning, for example, the lights around the city go off, just like that. Brownouts have become a way of life. But what probably frightens us more is the fact that we don't seem to care so much anymore.

"There goes NORECO again," we all say with the gravest of sighs. Of course we curse ("Pesteng NORECO!"), and then we go on to take pity for our appliances gritting through the changes of electricity running and then suddenly being clamped down. "Doesn't that do damage to our appliances?" I remember asking my brother once.

"Of course it does," he said. "Wreaks havoc on our electric bills, too."

But all we can do is rant, because we know nothing will ever change. The brownouts will not go away, we know. This is a fact of Dumaguete life. The way our Sundays come to a standstill, serenaded by motorized generators all over downtown, because of NORECO's "scheduled maintenance." The way that we also know it takes approximately two hours of endless waiting just to pay our bills in the crowded NORECO office, seeing only five or six clerks handling the Dumaguete hordes in the hundreds. The way we also look up from our sidewalks and see the snakes of electric wirings fattening and growing ever more complex as they hung -- like the bad eye sores that they are -- from one tottering street pole to another. "Why can't they bury the electric wires underground, like other cities do?" I asked the same brother once more.

"Dream on, kiddo," he said.

And we rant on.

For this weekend, I must tell you that there are enough posts in this blog about fathers and mothers and books and music and food. I was beginning to sound like Martha Stewart. I've found that what is generally more enjoyable to write, and also read, are the occasional ranting on sundry topics. Like pedicab drivers who have really bad B.O., or who charge too much. (Attention, authorities: please take note of these pedicab numbers -- 2213 and 0579.) Topics like the culture of brownouts. Like bad restaurants, and a pigsty of a movie house.

Like the state of correct grammar in the world.

Consider, for example, the picture below.

It is a shot taken with a Motorola camera phone of the display window of Lee Super Plaza, which for the month of June celebrates the opening of classes, complete with commercial enticements for the annual shopping orgy for school materials and the like.

But perhaps the Lee Super Plaza show window is also indicative of the bad state of education we have right now in the country. Look closely and observe the sign. It says: "YOU'R SCHOOL YEAR STARTS HERE! SHOP NOW!" (The emphasis is mine.) And we can only laugh so hard -- but also commiserate privately perhaps -- at the irony, at the absurdity of it all. Here we have a show window that celebrates schools and education -- and does the celebrating with a misplaced hyphen and a misspelling so gross, I'm not sure the artist and the sign maker even passed elementary school.

What has happened to our sense of language? Mangled, like the rest of our lives. Sometimes, too, I quietly laugh every time I go to Wishy Washy at the corner of Amigo to have my laundry done. Don't get me wrong. I love Wishy Washy. The service is fine, and the attendants are quite accommodating and friendly. You see, I used to patronize this other laundry shop downtown, near Silliman. But once, a long time ago, I returned to get my laundry at the day and hour marked on my claim stub -- and was told, with surprising rudeness, by the attendant that my clothes have yet to be washed, and that I should wait, and that I was not paying them anyway for overtime. It was quite a mouthful from this Chinese-looking woman-attendant, and all of these without me uttering a single word except to ask if my clothes were ready.

Perhaps she is harried and tired, I reasoned. But when she complained some more, I finally told myself, Heck, I didn't patronize your business to be rudely told off.

The next week, I had my laundry done instead in Wishy Washy -- a very good change, and yet, while once eating the tasty chocolate they sell at the adjacent Tsokolate bakeshop, I amused myself with wondering: Did the owner even know that "wishy-washy" means "cowardly hesitation" or "exasperating indecisiveness"? Perhaps, I reasoned, the owner just liked the musical alliteration of the term, as well as the immediate connect between the word "wash" and the nature of the business. Who knows, really?

And who cares anyway? I still get my laundry fast, and the attendants have become good acquaintances. Which is more than I can say about other services, no matter how Brightly they may promise to Wash your laundry.

And which is also more than I can say about this "venerable" footwear store, which, phoenix-like, had risen from a kind of ashes, and now has this swanky newish branch in one of our "malls." Last summer, a friend of mine bought a pair of black sandals worth about P250 from the store. I liked the look of the footwear, and so I went with my friend to buy myself a pair as well, with the assurance from the giddy salespeople that it was a very sturdy brand.

Less than three days later, I was back in the store with the soles of the sandals coming completely unglued. Funny thing was, I had barely used them at all. What's more, the store couldn't say it was damage from too much wear, because my friend eventually came back the next day with the same problem. The store took back our shoes with the promise to repair them. They did reglue the soles, but less than a week later, the toe straps had come off, for both our pairs.

Again we marched back to the shoe store -- but this time, they wouldn't budge. We threatened a visit to the local Department of Trade and Industry, to which they finally recapitulated with an offer of two brand new pairs of the same sandals. "But what if the same problem will happen again?" we asked.

"Then that's your problem na," the salesgirl -- now grown snotty -- said.

We sighed, and took the replacement sandals.

And exactly four days later, the soles came off.

I told my friend I had enough of my Foot being Stepped on by stupid retailers, and off we went to the smalltime "footwear specialists" crowding a corner of Real Street in front of the public market. For less than forty pesos per pair, they repaired the sandals for us.

And guess what? We're still wearing them. Talk about the sturdiness of masa service.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich