January 24, 2015

The Grumpy Old Man by the Bridge

During rainy seasons, Bayanihan street is always flooded. Pedestrians, particularly students, have a hard time crossing. The problem with the road is that it is actually uneven, so even if you make it on the shallow part, chances are, you wouldn’t make it on the deeper part. It was either you risk getting wet from the waist down or stay the night until the water subsides.
As soon as the rain started to fall, the pedestrians expect the worst. So, they were surprised to find a wooden plank they can cross one rainy season. The improvised bridge was manned by a grumpy old man they got to know eventually as Tibo. He carried with him an old greasy can for coins which he waved at the people crossing the bridge.
Tibo was a former soldier who left the service when his wife died. Though he never talked about it, his military orientation manifests itself in Tibo. Every single one is to fall in line, no pushing, no pulling. He doesn’t tolerate any dilly dallying while crossing the bridge as it may cause delay to other passersby. He made sure every single one drop a coin which he called tax.
As the rainy season passed by, there were additions to the improvised bridge. Poles were erected on both sides with a horizontal bar that held them together. It became easier for the people to cross because they had something to hold on to while crossing. There were also lads to help people, especially the elderly or delicate women, to cross. The plank was also changed as soon as it was no longer safe for crossing.
At first, the pedestrians were relieved and thankful. Eventually, they got tired of Tibo’s rules of discipline. They started to complain and make snide comments. But Tibo didn’t mind them. They probably didn’t realize that all the coins they were giving were used to maintain the bridge. However, Tibo didn’t explain that to them, he didn’t need to. Let them talk all they want. He has a bridge to man.
Year after year, the improvised bridge was put up by Tibo ang his little helpers. And year after year, the people complain. Then one rainy day, Tibo didn’t show up to man the bridge. Rumors had it he was sick and had to stay in bed.
Consequently, no one was manning the bridge. The passersby rejoiced. No more grumpy old man and no more tax. But Tibo’s little helpers didn’t show up as well, so no one was helping the elderly, making it longer for them to cross the improvised bridge. Then, at the middle of the rainy season, the poles of the bridge went missing. They were stolen. Now, the people found it more difficult to cross.
The people began wishing Tibo would get well really soon. Things were better when he was there. Before the rainy season ended, even the plank was stolen. Now, there was no more bridge and the pedestrians were back where they used to be.
The year passed by and the rainy season came again. The people were so happy when they saw Tibo putting up a wooden plank. With a scowl on his once handsome face, he barked the rules to people who were so relieved to see him they put out their wallet to give not only coins but also bills.
 (Original story by the blog author. Any similarities with other stories, fiction or otherwise, are purely incidental.)

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