Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Shoestring Tuesday

Today was a dull day. My two classes have both picked up the pace and gotten down to business, but my heart just wasn’t in it today. My mind and body were present, but my heart was someplace else, thinking of summer. The only distinct impression I have from today is the heat, on and on, the heat.

I woke up fifteen minutes ahead of my alarm clock, sometimes that happens, my body somehow senses it’s time to wake up, and I beat my own alarm clock to the punch. But I stayed in bed and waited for it to ring anyway before getting up because I didn’t want to acknowledge the fact that I was wide awake and that there was no escaping the hamster wheel, the daily grind. But of course it was inevitable and I got ready to face another day.

I drove to school with my sister and we were barely out of Batasan on our way to Commonwealth and there was already a traffic bottleneck and cars alternated between being at a standstill or moving jerkily. There were supposed to be three lanes, but Filipinos being Filipinos, the rightmost lane is used for parking by the establishments along it, leaving cars with just two lanes. Only the tricycles and motorcycles could zip in and out and between cars. I hate it when they do that, it’s like they’re just asking for it, like they have a death wish, because you don’t even see them coming, only when they’re already right next to you and about to squeeze in front of you, and you nearly clip them! They just fly by my peripheral vision! And also, they insist on staying in the middle of the lane and moving slower, impeding me! My sister was watching me like a hawk the whole time, to keep me from flying off my handle and going berserk.

We made it to school, and thanks to the car’s air-conditioning, I kept my head more or less cool. The moment I stepped out though, that was a different story. I couldn’t even make it to my classroom without feeling beads of sweat starting to form. Luckily, my room was air-conditioned, so that was a joy. But even if we had a small room and there were only a few of us in class, it didn’t really get cold. You wouldn’t be hot anymore, but the air-conditioning was at the maximum setting at that, so just think how much hotter it was outside!

Class went fine. We covered a lot in two hours, and I rushed to my next class. I actually bumped into my professor for my next class going down the stairs, because he was coming from his office at the Faculty Center and on his way to class too, so we walked together and chatted a bit. It was just a little awkward though, that he saw I was also on my way to our class. I’m used to being early, so having consecutive classes and being just on time is a weird feeling.

Anyway, we started discussing about what our notions of heroes were and compared traditional and post-modern views, and a lot of points were brought up. I tried to participate actively, and so did a few of the others, but I think we’re all still trying to get a feel for each other. During regular semesters, the first week we get to warm up to each other, but during Summer, everything’s on a fast track, so it’s hard to find your footing in class automatically and just snap into discussion mode. But on a high note, the obnoxious guys from yesterday were gone. I don’t know if they were just absent today or if they’ve dropped out of the class. I hope it’s for good because our other classmates could use the seats, rather than those waste of space jerks!

The professor let us out about thirty minutes early and as I was walking back to the parking lot, I spotted the dirty ice cream cart and I gravitated to it. It was so very hot and the oatmeal cookies and raisins I scarfed down earlier in class really didn’t make for a very satisfying lunch. I normally pack a more substantial lunch, but considering how my classes are one after another, anything I bring needs to be on the go food, like biscuits and crackers and bite-size things that don’t require utensils. There’s always food waiting at home, but even if I get out of class before one, the travel time is still a factor, and I really have to eat by noon or else I start trembling and shaking.

Going back to the ice cream, I asked what flavors were available: avocado, mango, and cheese. I don’t like cheese flavored desserts, and when I eat ensaymada, I remove the cheese, so I was torn between mango and avocado. I mean you can ask for two flavors, but I didn’t want to mix the two, so I went with avocado, because I can eat fresh mangoes all the time, but avocado isn’t always in season. I asked the vendor for 20 pesos’ worth. I was surprised when he started scooping ice cream into the second to the largest size of cone, and I was sad and disappointed to learn that there had been a price increase. For the longest time, 20 pesos could get you the largest, and thickest and crunchiest waffle cone, and I just assumed it was still the same. I thought wrong. Now the larges cone was for 25 pesos.

IMG_0757I paid the vendor and walked to my car and really ate my ice cream in a hurry because even a short distance under the sun was causing it to melt rapidly. My car was less than two minutes away and it was dripping by the time I got in my car and turned up my air-conditioning full blast. It was so light and refreshing, but the price increase left a bitter aftertaste in my mouth. I could afford to add another five pesos, but it’s the principle that matters to me, that I can’t even enjoy a simple treat I used to because everything’s gotten more and more expensive.

There’s a local Selecta Cornetto commercial with a tagline that goes, “Hanggang saan aabot ang bente pesos mo?” Loosely translated into English, it means, what can you buy with twenty pesos? And supposedly the Cornetto cone is that much, meaning you can afford at least the simplest pleasure of ice cream on a hot day. But actually in groceries, they charge more than twenty pesos, and have a markup price. And in the case of dirty ice cream, I thought my twenty pesos was enough to buy me the large cone, but apparently, because of rising prices, I got less than that. My twenty pesos wasn’t worth the same amount of ice cream. Even my favorite ice cream is now more expensive. It was really disheartening.

I pondered while I drove home. It might seem insignificant, it’s just ice cream, after all, but it’s like the time that the price of instant noodles on campus increased by one peso when Styrofoam was banned and they switched to paper plates. It used to be fifteen pesos, but became sixteen pesos. It’s one peso, and while I could certainly spare one peso more (back when I still ate instant noodles on a regular basis), I felt violated by the very idea that this was instant noodles, with barely any nutritional value, and you ate it because it was cheap, fast, and inexpensive, and they had found a way to take that away too.

Maybe the heat has gotten to me and put me into a foul mood, but there a few things on this earth I hold dear, and one of them is ice cream. It’s so screwed up. It’s a cruel world indeed when even dirty ice cream, which is supposed to be a heavenly ice cold delight on a shoestring budget, is now farther from reach.

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