In the Philippines one of the main forms of transportation is the jeepney. Basically, it’s like a jeep and a person’s knee mated; as the name suggests. Then the offspring looks like a jeep, but it’s the size of a knee. Really. Those things are cramped. I couldn’t even look out the open windows or scratch my nose as needed. It’s practically the corset of ground transportation.
I’ve now had a few jeepney rides under my belt. The first was at night on a neon light colored one that basically blinded Jenny.
The second time, I think, was with Jenny’s friends on our way to the mall. It was the longest jeepney ride I had been on. Jenny didn’t have the heart to tell her friends I was probably going to die during the ride which actually included a transfer point. Basically this involved somehow knowing where you are, hopping off, and grabbing another jeepney. It sounds simple. I honestly don’t think anyone in the United States could pull it off successfully without having a panic attack and then scheduling an appointment with their therapist.
Let me stop right here for a second and explain how this is much more complicated than transportation systems in America. In the USA everything is labeled carefully. Even minivans with infants have those stupid Baby on Board bumperstickers. You can also look up any transportation information details online, check the map posted at the stops, and a few other options to help you get around. In the Philippines the jeepneys seem to move fast and there’s no real sense of organization. They’re just colorful vehicles passing by every so often and you have to sort of already knowing the routes before hopping on. They are cramped and there’s no limit to how many people will go on them. Basically you keep sucking in your gut or cut off limbs until everyone can fit.
I know. Jeepneys sound awful. It makes my air conditioned train rides where I have to stand and write on my smartphone sound like heaven. So why would anyone ride a jeepney? They do have taxis in the Philippines after all.
Jeepneys are actually incredibly cheap. They cost about 7 pesos which is the equivalent of about 20 cents in the United States. You can’t get anything for 20 cents here let alone somewhere else. It’s an affordable way to get around even if it means getting your arm hairs tangled with the person next to you every so often.
There are some jeepeneys bigger than others. In Jenny’s hometown they are slightly larger than the others I’ve ridden. This was much better for an average sized white person like me who sometimes has to duck in the Philippines.
All of my jeepney rides were pretty successful overall. I thankfully had Jenny to guide me. She knew how much to pay and that you need to tap a coin against the metal bar to let them know when to stop. They go by the honor system too with nobody really making sure you pay. But I’m sure if you don’t, one of the crazy people on the jeepney will give you a dirty look. Every jeepney has one crazy person on it too. Did I mention that? I probably should before you get overconfident and think you can handle it.
My worst jeepney experience was not the heat, the overcrowding, or all of the staring from the locals wondering who let the pale ghost in. The worst event was when one old woman was getting on she poked me in the eye accidentally. I was the only person on the jeepney at the time whose head overlapped the handguard. Rushing to get on while blindly reaching, her finger landed on my pupil instead of something that could help her.
It hurt pretty badly. I think some of the pain was thinking she might have dirty fingers nails and I’d have to get the eye removed. This was mostly just paranoia from a strange man in a stranger land.
Jeepneys aren’t as terrifying as many Americans may think they are. That said I’m never riding one without my bee.