When I went out to buy some supplies for my computer rental shop, I met some aliens. It was not my first time to meet aliens but it was my first time to ride in a vehicle without any sense of motion.
First, I must stress that there are many kinds of aliens and those that I have met or seen face to face looked like us. I have never seen one who looked “extra-terrestrial”, huge head, wrap around eyes, small beings, giants, etc. They do not want to draw attention to themselves. Whenever they come to Earth and try to mix with us, say, in Europe, those aliens who looked Europeans would be the ones sent down. Because this happened in Manila, Philippines, the aliens I saw resembled Filipinos. In fact, I would not have cared for them whom I rode with had I not noticed strange but, may I say, wonderful things.
A jeepney is a mode of transportation widely used in the Philippines. It is a carry-over from the World War II G.I. Jeep used by the Americans, modified with a longer chassis and body and usually carries 22 passengers. Two passengers sit in front beside the driver while ten passengers sit on two opposite rows at the back. Unlike in a bus where passengers all face toward the front, the two rows of passengers inside a jeepney sit fronting each other. The entrance is at the rear of the vehicle, with one small metal platform serving as a step. Here is a picture of a jeepney.
It was after lunch, between 1-3 p.m. when there were very few customers when I decided to buy some supplies at a popular bookstore chain in JAKA commercial center, some three kilometers away.. Dr. A. Santos Ave. (formerly Sucat Road) ia a major thoroughfare in Paranaque, Metro Manila. It is used by jeepneys, taxis, private cars, delivery trucks, etc., causing, during this hour, light to moderate traffic.
When I went to the stop to get my ride, there were the usual jeepneys illegally parked waiting for fare. I knew that it would take minutes before they filled-up or decided to leave so I chose to hail an oncoming jeepney in the middle of the road.
The Filipino jeepney is usually brightly and lavishly decorated. It would have plastic streamers, or ten antennas, or six stainless horns, or a dozen different colored lights depending on the taste of the owner. Inside, there would be a stereo blasting the latest local or English hit songs, padded head rests, even glass ceilings (yes!), or a family portrait of the owner. The speeding jeepney which I waved to stop however was a simple one – brown in color with none of the lavish décor. It was speeding like it was going to pass right in front of me but when I waved my hand, I was surprised that it stop immediately. I didn't have to run after it because the rear entrance was just a step away from me. Normally, jeepneys stop a few feet further because (1) the passengers would complain if it came to an abrupt halt; and (2) most of the engine and drive trains are surplus parts imported from Japan, hence, not always the latest model. I still have to see one with disc brakes!
With high energy and adrenaline rushing, I grabbed the handle bars and jump onboard, propelling me almost forward. Normally, the inertia of the braking vehicle would affect the forward motion of the rushing passenger but to my slight surprise, I felt like I was jumping into a stationery room, holding onto the door jams for support. (When a jeepney has just braked suddenly, a passenger who has jumped onboard would be propelled forward so he has to hold on tigthly on the handle-bars. When the backward jerk of the vehicle follows as a result of the sudden braking, an experienced passenger could then move forward to find his seat. There would be a balance between his own forward momentum from jumping onto the vehicle, and the backward momentum from the braking effect).
The next decision now was where to seat myself. All of this took a split second or more but when you have been riding in jeepneys a lot, your reflexes take over.
There were two passengers seated inside, on opposite benches. A man who was in his 40's was sitting on the right side while fronting him, on the row behind the driver, was a girl in her late teens. There was space good for two passengers between the man and the rear entrance while there was a small space enough for one person between the girl and the rear entrance. Because I was not going very far, I took the seat near the entrance to the left of the man.
Once seated, it is my habit to feel how the driver of the vehicle I am on change gears. Does he do it smoothly or with a jerk? I didn't feel any jerk when the jeepney continued running and I thought the driver was good.
As I took my place opposite the girl, whom I noticed was extremely beautiful, she gave me a very angelic smile as if she had known me for a long time. I smiled back. I was still looking at her, who was still smiling, when she motioned for me with her eyes to sit next to her in that little space, on her right. I was still racking my brains where I had I seen her before when she smiled again. I made a cinch that I had not yet seen her before, though it was premature to jump to a conclusion like that, but I decided to sit next to her.
I had not yet paid my fare to the driver who was hunched back with his driving. It would be disrespectful if I asked the man next to me to hand the money to the driver because we were all at the rear part of the vehicle. I stood up, crouched toward the front, gave the exact fare to the driver, and on my way back, took the seat next to the girl.
I looked at the girl seated on my side and she was still smiling. I also took a cursory scan at the interior of the vehicle. The jeepney did not look brand-new and might have been re-painted , scrape to metal, that is. It did not look old either, but I was quite sure it did not have the original finish. There were no rusts, no scratches on the metal frames, the ceiling was not sagging, and the upholstery was a warm brown, which was very well coordinated with the jeepney's color. All in all, it was nicely done and I thought that if I am going to have a jeepney, I would hire the same people who made it.
The jeepney did not look like it was intended for public transport, yet here I was, a paying passenger. When I glanced at the girl who was sitting on my left, she smiled at me then look away, towards the front of the vehicle. I looked at the man and he, too, was smiling. I wondered if she was his daughter! Then I became curious about the vehicle. When I was moving crouched down forward to hand over my fare to the driver, I should have been balancing myself, but I didn't feel any rocking or swaying motion. Furthermore, I noticed that the vehicle was moving without a sound. This was very unusual because jeepneys are open type vehicles and do not have insulation from engine and outside noise. Just as I began to notice that this vehicle was running smoothly and quietly, there was a thunderous racket that came from the vehicle. The engine roar was horrible – it sounded like the jeepney was doing ninety kilometers per hour with a shattered exhaust pipe- instead of actually just around thirty kilometers per hour.
I noticed, too, that the driver was hunched over the wheel, as if he were racing to get home, regardless whether he met his monetary quota or not. He always stayed on the inner lanes, never venturing on the outermost lanes where commuters would get their rides. Another strange thing with the driver was he did not stop for waiting commuters, nor slowed down for them, or even looked their way, honked, or signalled them. Surely, I thought, he wanted to get home early, probably after dropping his passengers.
I wanted to talk to the girl but she was facing away, the man was smiling at us, and the jeepney was roaring loudly it was impossible to hear anything. Anyway, I was nearing my destination, less than a hundred meters away when the jeepney suddenly accelerated. Well, I thought, I can just pay the additional fare and strike a conversation with the girl until the completed end of the trip but with the racket, it would be futile. Work is work and I needed to earn a living and when I was near the bookstore where I was supposed to go to, I raised my voice and said “Stop!”
The jeepney suddenly stopped and again, I was surprised I did not feel any forward lunge. I did not sway forward, and the man and the girl were just sitting comfortably, unmindful of the sudden braking. If there was a glass of water filled to the brim, I'm sure there would not have been any dropped spilled. I was still thinking of the unusual vehicular ride when I went inside the store.
How did I know the two passengers, a man and a girl, and the driver were aliens? The man's and the girl's behavior were unusual but these could still pass as normal if they knew me. Again, I'll limit my description of them as having unblemished skin and perfect teeth. What gave rise to my suspicions and go over the events was their behavior, and what made me conclude they were indeed aliens and I had taken a ride with them was the modified jeepney.
Hereunder are my observations and assumptions.
The jeepney ride was very smooth, and there was no feeling of any motion or vibration. Sucat Road is not a well-paved road, The ordinary jeepney, locally assembled from surplus parts and recycled materials, has a tough under chassis and a hard suspension, No independent suspensions, expensive shock absorbers, etc., yet the ride was so smooth. How could such a smooth ride be possible?
I think it was possible because the alien mechanics attached an anti-gravity or anti-matter device to the bottom of the vehicle, propelling it forward. Although this vehicle was equipped with usual motor parts of an ordinary jeepney, usually a surplus Isuzu diesel engine, the aliens always activated the anti-matter device when using it. They kept the engine in tip top condition for show, for example, if the Land Transportation Office happened to do random checks for smoke belching public utility vehicles.
If the jeepney was propelled by an anti-gravity device the size of a shoe box, the vehicle must not appear floating above the ground. The tires would still be rolling and rising up and down with the bumps and depressions on the road. This would make the whole thing realistic. Only an anti-matter device could propel such a vehicle because considering the kind of vehicle and the type or road, there was no sense of any motion inside.
What about those sudden stops? Surely, if an anti-matter device was used to move forward and to stop the vehicle, when it suddenly came to a halt, the wheels would still continue spinning, Here, I would assume that the driver did apply the brakes on the wheel, not to stop the vehicle, but only to prevent them from spinning around when the whole chassis and body had already stopped.
As I said, I could not feel any gears shifting, which should have been done at least twice during my 5- or so minute ride. Of course, the gears were not necessary because they were always in neutral, freeing the drive shaft to turn along with the tires.
We were also never stopped by a traffic light. We passed at least three traffic lights yet we breezed through every one of them. On the other hand, this could be a co-incidence specially if the traffic lights were calibrated. Had we been stopped by a red light, there was always the possibility that other passengers would board the jeepney.
How did we, the passengers, looked like to pedestrians or other people in cars, etc. As long as there were no sharp curves or a raised portion of the road, everything would appear normal. Had there been some, the jeepney would look like other vehicles, leaning to the left or right, depending on where the hump or depression is. The passengers inside the jeepney would also be raised upwards or brought down as the vehicle would roll over an incline or depressed part of the road, but strangely, the passengers would not feel anything. They would not know if the jeepney had just had its two wheels on the same side together up on the curb. If they looked out of the window, then they would see that buidlings, light posts, and other structures would be leaning to one side.
Here is the strangest thing that could happen. If the jeepney was flipped on its back, the passengers would not feel any turning motion and would still remain glued to their seats. This is because an anti-matter “creates” its own gravitational field, and unless the passengers would look outside the window and see the world relative to themselves, they would not know that their jeepney has turned upside down.
The jeepney I was riding on did not do a turn-turtle, still I never felt any of the usual humps and bumps that one normally experiences when riding in a car. Remember that a jeepney is not built for a comfortable and luxurious ride but for endurance, yet this is the smoothest ride I ever had in my life.
What about the loud racket the engine made? Easy. It was artificial, not really being produced by the engine's operation. The alien designers of the modified jeepney had to come up with an engine sound of some sort to disguise their unusual vehicle. Diesel engines are noisy, part of the jeepney, thus, they were able to disguise it cleverly.
Finally, could that jeepney fly? Most probably it could float slowly down to level ground if it careened over a cliff. Maybe it could fly, too. A jeepney, with its rectangular design, is one of the worst aero-dynamic vehicles in existence today. Operating it in excess of speeds of 200 miles per hour on the ground or in the air could probably break it up into a thousand pieces.
Photo: (RF image by Featurepics.com)