When I went back home last December, my dad told me of a fire that gutted some squatter shanties under the highway bridge on the way to my home. The blaze was intense enough that there was a possibility that the damaged section might have to be torn down and replaced. Signs were put up prohibiting trucks with over four wheels to cross, to minimize the load on the damaged structure.
The ideas of that bridge being unavailable to the thousands of vehicles that cross it everyday and my having to pass through alternative routes simply staggered me. I remember what my life was like without that bridge, over 12 years ago. A temporary future of having to live without it and with half to a full hour of travel time added to my day was not something I relished. I certainly had no appreciation of the squatters, whose homes were the source of the damage to the bridge.
Over the next few months, I settled into a weekly routine of gassing up my car at a Shell station on my way home, a few minutes before getting to the bridge. Aside from gas, every now and then I buy a couple of sampaguita wreaths from a fellow who hawks them there at the station.
Now it’s May, and I noticed that the sign disallowing heavy vehicles from crossing the bridge has been removed. I took it to mean that the repair work had been done and, thankfully, the bridge didn’t need to be closed.
Once again, I dropped by the Shell station to fill up prior to going home. As I got another pair of sampaguita wreaths, the guy thanked me and told me that whenever he gets to sell all his wreaths, he gets to buy stuff. I replied that that was great. He went on to say that last Sunday, he managed to get a blanket. He added that he used to live under the bridge and implied that he lost everything in the fire. He smiled once more in thanks as he walked off.