White knuckles

    The Urban Dictionary defines “white knuckles” as, “to hold on to something with your hand(s) in a constant position so tight and long that blood rushes away from your knuckles and they become pale and sweaty.”

    For example, “the student driver was white-knuckling the steering wheel.” Or “that new video game will give you white knuckles.” Or “the Ombudsgirl and her deputy have white knuckles trying to hold on to their desks.”

    But this is not about the Ombudsgirl and her knuckles. This is about me on the Alabang Viaduct last Sunday white knuckling the steering wheel of my car.

    I was not trying to control a wild skid. My car was not even moving. I was parked on the side of the road, waiting for the SLEX patrol to help me with my flat tire.

    I felt safe. That is until I saw in my rear view mirror that cars and trucks were barreling down the road and swerving at the last instant to avoid slamming into me. And my car would rock from side to side as those vehicles blew past. But that’s not all.

    The viaduct bounces up and down whenever a truck passes. Well, that’s how a well-constructed bridge is supposed to behave, according to the Discovery Channel series on catastrophes. However that’s small comfort when you’re feeling like you’re caught in a 9.5 magnitude earthquake with nowhere to go for refuge.

    I tried not to think of Japan through all that rocking, rolling, and bouncing but it was impossible. I was parked across the Sogo Hotel, which I had always associated with a Japanese department store.

    Under the circumstances, all I could do to calm down was to tell myself I was not alone, that the guests in the Sogo were also going through a similar experience—rocking, rolling, and bouncing —except theirs was voluntary, and pleasant in a Sunday afternoon way.

    The thought of those couples expressing love for each other in a wholesome manner calmed me for a few minutes. I loosened my grip on the wheel and blood returned to my knuckles. Unfortunately, I remembered that to my right was Ayala Alabang, the command center of Calendarists who were waging war on Contraceptivists.

    I gripped the steering wheel again, this time tighter than ever because I realized that I was parked right on the dividing line between pain and pleasure, in the arena where the battle between the “Good” and the “Gooder” will be fought. But I digress, my concerns are more mundane.

    My misfortune happened at high noon. I was on my way to play golf and tee-time was 1:30 so the first thing I did was to call my playmates to tell them I might be late.

    “Where are you?” my playmate asked.

    “Alabang Viaduct, I had a flat,” I replied.

    “No problem,” he said. “I’ll send my driver to pick you up.”

    Relieved, I leaned my seat back and lit a cigarette. And then it hit me.

    “Your driver can’t land your helicopter in the middle of the viaduct!” I screamed over the phone.

    “Uhh, that’s true, bro. Anyway, buy a chopper so you never have to worry about flats ever again. Don’t take too long.”

    After a cursory goodbye to my playmate, I called the SLEX helpline.

    “Where are you exactly?” the voice asked.

    “I’m southbound on the viaduct right across Sogo.”

    There was a brief pause and then the voice said, “Okay we got you on our camera. We’ll send a patrol over immediately. Please stay inside your vehicle.”

    “Thanks,” I said, although the warning was unnecessary because with traffic zipping by so close I was too terrified to even open my car window.

    Help arrived in a motorcycle. He immediately positioned two hazard-warning triangles behind my car and proceeded to work on my tire. It was the fastest tire change I ever saw, almost as fast as I can put on a condom and definitely faster than I can compute a rhythm calendar.

    Anyway, to make a long story short, I made my tee-time. So thank you very much, SLEX. Your service is fantastic. Prompt, polite, and efficient. I’m not going to complain about the toll hike anymore.

    Now I have to hit the ball but my knuckles are white from gripping the club too tightly.

Manuel Buencamino

Buencamino was a weekly columnist for Today and Business Mirror. He has also written articles in other publications like Malaya, Newsbreak, "Yellow Pad" in Business World, and "Talk of the Town" in the Inquirer. He is currently with Interaksyon, the news site of TV5. MB blogged for Filipino Voices, blogs for ProPinoy and maintains a blog, Uniffors.com. Game-changers for him, as far as music goes, are Monk, Miles, Jimi, and Santana.