I went to the Land Transportation Office (LTO) yesterday to process the change of name in our car registration, something which my father had asked me to do four years ago. Somehow I could not longer put it off and had to take two days off from work just to get the whole thing done.
Painted in huge red letters all over the office were signs that said "DON'T DEAL WITH FIXERS". My experience yesterday proved that those signs were just for show. I went through the normal route and refused to pay a single centavo for illegal fees just to make my papers fly faster. I saw how fixers swarmed all over the place and buried my registration papers beneath bundles of the "no-show" documents of people who chose not to spend their entire day waiting for their turn.
I paid a huge price for my stubborn idealism - loss of two days' leave, exposure to a roomful of sweating people for five hours, and final exams on patience, endurance and perseverance. Somebody asked me after the whole ordeal that I put myself through whether it was worth it saving my 100 pesos. I said that I could not, in all good conscience as a Christian lawyer who works in the anti-graft court in the country, bring myself to pay my way to a shortcut.
I tried to look at the source of the problem. I talked to the chief of their division, a lawyer who was buried neck-deep in papers, and asked how come each registration had to take so many of the taxpayers' precious hours which could be better spent elsewhere. Well, no I didn't make that long speech. I simply showed her my Sandiganbayan ID and asked why they could not release documents at a more reasonable rate. She simply shrugged that their computers had jurassic speeds and left me to wonder if there was someone who sat on their computer upgrade proposals. She asked her staff to pull out my documents but I made no effort to ask that it be placed on top of the heap. I returned to the waiting area and resumed being bored to death for a couple more hours.
I was tired and irritated by the time I was done at that office. This experience, and a bigger one I can't write about, had shown me just how naive I still am. It was pointed out to me that I still believed in a perfect world where everyone would do the right thing. I get angry and frustrated when things don't work the way they are supposed to. Life is never going to work that way. If I don't want fixers, I can't insist that others make the same choice.
Some people choose to lie a little, sin a little, indulge a little. I insist on my idealism and get beaten up in the process, physically, and emotionally. I have to live with this choice and be happy with it. I have to eat my dinner after grueling hours of waiting with my conscience intact, and stop trying to change the world.
In hindsight, I guess I was truly irritated because I hated waiting.