Just Fall In Line Behind The Chicken

Just Fall In Line Behind The Chicken.

Just Fall In Line Behind The Chicken.

Hauling Out and Dusting Off An Old Favorite

I first published this post nearly 10 years ago.  It’s always been a favorite of mine because it tells a lot about what it’s really like to live in the Philippines, day by day.



It has had its share of readership but it is now buried so far back in the archives hardly anyone is ever going to find it, so I decided to dust it off, polish it up and make a few edits to bring it up to the present.

How Did The Chicken Get In Here?

A while back I took my car to the dealer for its routine 40,000-kilometer service (that’s about 25,000 miles for the Metrically challenged out there).

Yep, four years now of living in the Philippines and car ownership in the Philippines and I have accumulated 25,000 miles already?

Already?  Heck, I would have run up that many miles back in Colorado in only a year … one of the many reasons that living here is much cheaper than living in the US, even if you insist on the luxury of your own car.

It’s now 12 years living here and I have just over 100,000 km (60,000 miles.)

The mechanic at the dealership pointed out two issues.

One, according to his handy-dandy digital battery and charging system checker, my battery was showing very little reserve left.  It was reading well into the “Replace” zone.

Now four years is not all that great a lifespan for a battery, but because of the incessant heat … (boy I have ‘cooked” in some traffic jams I’ll tell you) … and because of a lot of short trip driving combined with the extra load a diesel puts on the battery.

I wasn’t going to argue.  I mean I couldn’t argue anyway, now could I … the dealer wasn’t trying to sell me a battery, they don’t stock them and would have to order one (at a consequential cost in time and profit markup).

I told Rolly, my service advisor, that I’d keep my eye on it and get a new battery soon.

Rolly also pointed out there was a small crack in the v-belt that drives my air conditioner.

Now that’s a worrisome item to me because a cracked belt can snap any time with no notice and I do not want to be without air conditioning.

Turns out they don’t sell belts either … go to a parts store, sir, and buy one and bring it back and we’ll change it for you.

Well, I can take care of a belt, thinks I, so thanks a lot Rolly … I settled up the bill and went on my way.

Got A “Brother In Law Deal” On A Battery

My brother-in-law, Philip works in the “downtown” area of our little burg here.

I know his bottled water delivery company keeps a coupledeliveryy vehicles on the road, so that night I asked Philip if he knew a good place to buy a battery.

“Sure”, he replied, “Right across MacArthur Highway from our shop.

(Where ever you chose to live in the Philippines, there are good odds you are going to live close to MacArthur Highway … it’s the “Main Road” of the Philippines and runs, literally from one end of the country to the other … if that sounds strange, better brush up on your WW II history before you come … “Mac” is a bit of a hero here)

The shop is called JMB Trading.  Ask for Jimmy, he’s the “J” in JMB and tell him I sent you, they’re honest folks there.”

Good Deal, Let’s Go Buy a Battery

So bright and early next morning I cruise (I mean snake my way between the Jeepneys and tricycles) down a mile or two of MacArthur highway and there, right where Philip said it would be is JMB trading.

It’s a little “hole in the wall” sort of open front shop, chock-a-block full of batteries.

I walked inside and approached the first fellow I saw with the proper Philippine protocol.  “Good Morning, I am looking for Jerry”.

(Yes if you have been paying attention, in just a few hours I forgot what Philip told me and somehow transposed the name from Jimmy to Jerry.)

Of course, I got a blank state and the man pointed to the pretty lady sitting behind the counter,

I walked up and told her I was “looking for Jerry”, and she also responded with a blank look and asked, “Are you looking for my father”?

I had to allow that I had no idea who her father was unless he was Jerry, but I wanted to have my battery tested and probably buy a new one since I already suspected it was bad.

“Who sent you here”? she continued.

“Philip, from the water shop”, I responded, pointing across the street.

OMG, What Did I Say?

Voices shouted, arms were waved and pointed vigorously, three different workers dashed through the four lanes of traffic and in a few minutes, Philip was”‘standing tall” along with me in front of the lady, explaining the mission.

He told her, in the same English I used, that I need to buy a battery.

Philip speaks English well, like all my wife’s family, he learned English first.

But It Doesn’t Sound The Same

A common thing you are going to have to deal with here is that even Filipinos who understand English adequately will not understand foreigners speaking English … but the exact same words from a Filipino in English come through loud and clear.  Don’t ask why it’s just the way things are.

After my faux pas confusing “Jimmy” with “Jerry”, all was finally straightened out one of the workers who was not Jimmy or Jerry took an old-fashioned analog battery capacity checker out to my car and proceeded to check the battery.

His test confirmed what the dealer had said … the battery indeed tested very weak, so presto/chango a new one was taken down off the shelf and popped in place in less time than it took me to pay for it.

(4300 Pesos, minus a P200 “Suki” discount because I was Philip’s brother in law.)

In about 10 minutes, start to finish, I was driving off down MacArthur highway toward home with a shiny new Motolite battery.

It would have been easier had I remembered my “Jimmy” from my “Jerry” perhaps, but still a pretty good retail experience.

No “out of stock” nonsense,

No “did you bring change” irritation, etc.,

And I hope this one lasts longer than the original battery did.

(Note:  Turns out it did last about the same amount of time.  Now, 12 years in, my car is on brand new battery number 4, the third battery only lasted 3 years.)

OK, battery changed, back on the highway towards home.

But wait!  I can’t go home yet, I forgot about the air conditioner belt.

Well, there are very few places in the Philippines that look much like auto parts stores, so I really had no idea where to buy a replacement belt.

But I needed diesel fuel anyway, so I went to my frequent refueling stop, a Caltex station (yes, also on MacArthur Highway ;-)), right across from our local SM City Mall.

As my tank was filling I asked if the mechanic was available.  “Oh, of course, sir, just pull over there by the service bay”.

Promptly the mechanic came out, listened to what I told him about the belt, took it off the car in about 30 seconds and examine it closely.

Indeed, after a little looking he found the crack.  “Not that bad, sir, shall I put it back on”?

Well no, especially since you already took it off, I’d just as soon replace it.  “Do you have a new one”?

“Well, sir, you have to buy it from our shop.”

“OK, fine, where is your shop”?

Just Fall In Line Behind The Chicken.

Wait Your Turn, We’ll Get To You Soon

He started walking up toward the office/convenience storefront of the gas station complex, but then to my surprise walked around behind the modern building to a little hole-in-wall open style storefront, much like the battery place, except that this one sold everything, including the kitchen sink (there were several stainless steel sinks hanging on the wall).

Auto Parts, Farm Supplies And Everything Else.

Other major items in stock were many shelves of house paint, metal roofing, ladders, wheelbarrows, and a section of auto parts that looked promising,

I could see V-belts hanging from the rafters and, in front, a number of large cages of chickens … yes, live and pecking at some corn in their feeders and clucking their “hen talk” back and forth to each other.

This Is What I Need

The mechanic showed one of the clerks the belt.

The clerk went back to the belts, rooted around for a few minutes and found an exact match.

My mechanic then indicated I would pay and walked out, back to my car, belt in hand.

I figured I was almost finished with another successful bit of shopping when one of the chickens unintentionally got in the way

Just Fall In Line Behind The Chicken

Turns out I had to wait in line because the shopkeeper and the customer in front of me were arguing over the price of a chicken.

Not a dressed chicken for the dinner table, but a real live white egg-layer type hen in a cage out front of the store.

The customer took a chicken out of the cage, tucked it under his arm, and then began negotiating with the shopkeeper.

When they finally got finished with a satisfactory session of bargaining over and bad-mouthing the hen and then speaking ill of the customer’s ancestors, and then who won what in the recent barangay elections, how good Manny Paquiao looked for his next fight and then whatever else they were arguing about, THEN it was time for me to pay my P170 for the air conditioner V-belt.

When I got back to the car, the belt was already installed and I paid the mechanic another p100 for his labor and shop time and went merrily on my way in fully charged, air-conditioned comfort down MacArthur Highway towards home.



Mission Accomplished

Only in the Philippines 😉 Just Fall In Line Behind The Chicken.

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