It wasn’t my first time on the MRT. I’d taken it dozens of times in my pre-life to avoid traffic and skyrocketing gas prices. But it was the T-Rex’s first MRT ride; The Hooligan had taken it once before but she was too small to remember.
I got the bright MRT idea one early afternoon on a hot day when the Two Halves couldn’t sit still. The T-Rex had a plastic spatula and was running through the house yelling and swishing through the air. The Hooligan alternately shrieked The T-Rex away, “Pirate! Pirate! He’s going to hit me!” and whining at me to let her play another 30 minutes of Emily’s Taste of Fame on the laptop. When I was an inch away from losing it, I proposed a trip. Both Halves quit the wild rumpus immediately and became excited about going on a train ride.
We took a cab to the Taft station and I instantly realized my bright idea wasn’t so bright after all. A kilometric line greeted us at the gate. After a few minutes, I saw what was taking so long – two guards were at the head of the line, checking bags by touching each one with a stick. (They didn’t seem to actually look inside the bags; only tapped them, like a fairy godmother, to make sure the bags were actually there. When it was our turn, I thrust my bag at one guard without opening it, and the guard blindly tapped it with the regularity of a metronome. I wonder how many bomb explosions they foiled with that hare-brained tactic.)
The Two Halves were in awe. They’d never seen so many people standing in line. The Hooligan immediately began investigating.
“Mom, why are they standing in line? Where’s the train? Why does that man have a moustache? Can I pee?”
Finally, we made it down to the train. Since we were at the first station of the route, we got to choose our seats. We rode the first car, reserved for women and senior citizens. In contrast to the noise in the lines at the ticket booth, sounds were muted inside the train. As if people were afraid to be caught talking aloud. And this made The Two Halves instant celebrities because they didn’t care about disturbing the peace.
The T-Rex, who has steadily increased his vocabulary, stood on the seat and looked out the window at all the passing buildings and treetops. Every few seconds, he piped up, “Oooh, was dat?” And The Hooligan acted as his tour guide. “That’s a building. That’s a car. That’s a bus. That’s an airplane. That’s another train.”
The novelty wore off after about three stations. The T-Rex began squirming to be let go to explore the train. The Hooligan started her trip routine, “Are we there yet? Are we there yet?” So we got off at the Shangri-La on Shaw to keep our sanity and find more diversions.
After a pizza, The Halves were ready to walk around and I was ready to go home. So we walked around. We each left the mall an hour later with souvenirs: The Hooligan had a sticker on the back of her hand, The T-Rex had a similar sticker which he promptly ate, and I had a migraine waiting to erupt.
The ride home was uneventful, save for more tourist-guiding. “That’s the roof of a house. That’s the sky. That’s the window of the train.” (At one point, the elderly woman sitting next to us whispered to me, “Amerikano ba tatay nila?”)
Back home, it was as if energy was not spent. The T-Rex found his spatula and started tearing through everything again. The Hooligan found the laptop and quietly, without permission, logged on but got up and chased The T-Rex with her own spatula every few minutes. I sat amidst the chaos and ate a lemon square.