One day you're allowed to drive down a street, the next you suddenly aren't. To turn left you have to make a U-turn. The number your car's licence plate ends with determines the days it's allowed out - unless you're in the business district where you pay a fee and disregard the law. And oh yes, that favourite spot where you park your car? A huge truck might suddenly appear and tow away your vehicle. Travelling on Manila's streets is like a perpetual voyage of discovery: you never know what new traffic rule you're going to run into. The confusion comes from planners' desperate efforts to master the city's decades-old traffic problem. As they juggle around various schemes, the traffic managers have a way of implementing their ideas without giving the public any warning. Recently, a taxi I was riding found our normal route blocked by enormous concrete barriers, and had to take a detour. A few days later, going the same way, I warned the cabbie about the rerouted flow - and was nonplussed to discover that the huge barriers had vanished. My impression has always been that traffic rules are dreamed up by officials who have no problems of their own getting around, because they probably ride in chauffeured cars. Manila supposedly has a control centre, where traffic signals are managed with the help of a huge illuminated street map. From the ground as a commuter, it appears controllers must roll the dice before deciding which lights to switch red or green. At the heart of the traffic jams are two issues. First, there are too many vehicles. Second, drivers feel that traffic rules are either optional or applicable only to other motorists. No amount of redirecting traffic flow is going to avoid the problems caused by a bus or jeepney driver casually driving down the wrong side of a road. Slow as it is, the traffic falls apart at any unexpected event, which can include accidents, heavy rains, rallies and demonstrations and bank robberies - everybody who passes the crime scene slows down to gawk. Once, a scantily-clad starlet staged a photo shoot right atop a main flyover, virtually freezing vehicular flow. Even with the implementation of new traffic rules, trip times are as unpredictable as ever. A 10-minute ride today could take 30 minutes tomorrow, and for no visible reason. With Christmas coming, it can only get worse as people flock to the malls for last-minute shopping. Perhaps the traffic planners can come up with more imaginative schemes. How about a photo shoot on a major intersection with a beefy traffic manager in a skimpy bathing suit? Traffic should move faster, at least away from the site.