Sunday, June 05, 2005

Stranded!

Saturday evening was like a nightmare!

After spending the whole day in a water theme park (strange that I work near the best dive sites in the country and my work friends would opt to relax in the artificially generated waves and heavily chlorinated waters of a water theme park -- it was fun though) I was thoroughly exhausted and just wanted to stay at home and rest. We were very lucky. It was bright and sunny the whole day despite the weather forecast of heavy rains due to a big typhoon that veered off its course. We were not on the direct path of the typhoon but it was still expected to rain. At around 6pm I was already home and I thought I should buy something in the supermarket for dinner. A whole roasted chicken sounds just about right (I was going to eat the leftovers the next day, honest. I wasn't going to eat it all *wink*). When I was queuing up in the checkout counter it began to rain. That's not enough to describe it however. To say that it was like a dam bursting would be more appropriate. It poured unrelentlessly for the next 10 minutes or so and I couldn't even go to my car about 2 meters away without becoming fully drenched to the skin. I heard snippets of conversation from those that just arrived that portions of the main road was slowly flooding. I lived just a couple of minutes from the grocery but I needed to go further down that road for about a kilometer or so to reach a U-turn slot since all the intersections were closed off -- part of a traffic control scheme that was meant to improve traffic conditions by doing away with traffic lights. For me however, this meant that I will have to go through the flooded area twice so I can go back to the house. Knowing that the conditions might get worse, I braved the rain and proceeded to navigate the semi flooded streets hoping that my car wouldn't stall. I passed through the waters keeping the car on first gear all the time and hoping that the water wouldn't go through the exhaust. So far so good! On my way along the street I encountered an unusual sight. A column of water about 4 feet high is seen spouting from a manhole in the middle of the road! At first I thought I nearly bumped into something (visibility being very poor because of the heavy rains and the poor condition of my windshield wipers). If the drainage system is backflowing that much water pressure then things will definitely go bad very quickly.

When I was about to do the U-turn, I noticed that the cars going to the opposite direction was at a standstill. And then I realized that the waters at the other side was now waist deep! So here I was stuck in the U-turn slot with the rain still pouring from the sky like crazy. Only the big trucks and busses braved the waist deep waters. I mentally kicked myself for not waiting at the supermarket (I was more concerned with the dressed chicken - of all things) then I could have gone home by going counter flow to the traffic very close to the shoulder. I'm sure the traffic enforcers wouldn't mind. After all they were nowhere to be seen. I think they were taking refuge somewhere dry and warm.

After about 5 minutes of maneuvering, I managed to inch my way out of the U-turn slot with the help of a soggy plainclothes traffic enforcer (or at least I assumed him to be one, he could just be a good Samaritan trying to untangle the jam) I was able to go a different route but almost all the alternative routes ended up in a flooded area. The rain came so sudden and with such volume that the draining system couldn't cope. I ended up beside a fried chicken joint and as luck would have it, unbelievably, somebody was actually foolish enough to leave the store and face the traffic jam. Seeing my opening, I immediately parked on the space he vacated in case he realized how stupid he was. I'd rather spend my time eating at a fast-food store than sitting in my car in a traffic jam any day. The torrential downpour actually lasted for only a couple of hours but the water it generated was enough to bring traffic to a standstill about twice as long. After tasting almost everything on their menu (at least once) I finally decided that it was time to leave (mental note: if your stranded someplace without a decent toilet it's not a very bright idea to overeat). The main street is still not moving so I ventured to the alternative routes once again. I finally found a passable route (which was flooded waist deep earlier but is now only about a foot deep) but the problem is that everybody seems to have thought of using this route too. We began inching our way (well the word "inching" may be an exaggeration but what do you say when you move a foot at a time? "footing"?) home and what was supposed to be a quick trip back home became a long journey due to the circuitous route we took. I finally arrived at around 11pm dead tired from the ordeal and I couldn't think of any other time I was so happy to see the bathroom. And the chicken?... I felt a special bond with that chicken since I felt we went through a lot together. And well, let's just say that it was the best tasting roast chicken I had when I cooked it for lunch the next day.

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