Archive | July 2008

I Smell A Rat

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Not to get too epitomologist, but… why is it called “jalan tikus”? Is it because:

  • the roads are small as though they can only fit rats; or
  • the roads are heavily infested with rats; or
  • when you go through these roads and get lost people say “Rats! I should have gone the other way”?

You’re Always On The Wrong Side

Jakarta has lately been legendary with its traffic jams, and with its throngs of motorcycles that gather together and move like locusts. With the most recent gasoline price hike, you’d think people would use their own vehicles less and public transport more… but nooo, all they did was keep the car at home and use a motorcycle.Now believe me when I tell you I have nothing against motorcycles and the people who drive motorcycles. Um… well maybe a bit, but more specifically to the motorcyclists who sacrifice everything for speed (disregard for safety comes to mind, of themselves and others). And I also don’t like those noisy, speed-hungry motorcycles which most often do not have headlights or any other light. And… oh well. I hate motorcycles, period.So come rush hour, when 3 years ago you only had to handle the occasional motorcycle overtaking cars recklessly, now you have to deal with the crowd of motorcycles, which at some point take up the whole right lane of a two-lane road (for the uninitiated, Indonesians drive on the left, like the English – they also curse like the English) to the point your car cannot move forward. Well, not only motorcycles, there’s always an overeager angkot, mikrolet or metro mini eating up the lane as well (if not trying to overtake you from the left over what is supposed to be the curb, if only by official status).So which ever side road you’re on, it always seems to be wrong, considering the amount of other vehicles pressuring you to move along.

Need Some Space?

Jakarta is one of the mostly populated cities in the world, with 12 million people trying to get along. Everybody needs their space and so push and shove always happens over a certain patch of land, legally or illegaly. Even cars, buses and motorcycles are shoving each other for a respectable piece of real estate – albeit fleeting – on the roads, and even fight for space on the curb or the parking lot.But there’s one place that is seemingly always empty. No, boys and girls, I’m not talking about the soccer fields and such – they’re always full as well. Try visiting Terminal Lebak Bulus at any hour of the day…. I guarantee you, it will be empty. Some buses park here and there, but most of the buses and other public transport vehicles choose to fight for passengers on the road next to Terminal Lebak Bulus, thus creating traffic jams. When they actually have a lot of space to fight over passengers inside the terminal.I really don’t get this.

On Leave

To avoid my brain frying, I am taking this whole week off. Whole. Week. Off.

with nothing in particular to do… that’s the point! So if I don’t pick up the phone, yeah well… the phone is on leave as well, so it doesn’t fry out either πŸ˜€

The Oppression Continues… Indefinitely

Ever have one of does days when you feel you need to protest against the merciless oppression? That powers beyond your grasp keep blocking your way and of any hope of reaching your goal? When you need to just scream your lungs out against the pure unfairness of it all? Well, as they say, all’s fair in love and war, but it definitely isn’t in Jakarta.No, I’m not talking about the government – I’m talking about bus drivers.When students rally around Bunderan HI to criticize the government and years of oppression, nobody is talking about the daily oppression we get from bus drivers and their crew. They treat us like meat – not everybody can fit in those chairs, mind you – and they think they can go on filling the buses with people indefinitely, just like you would cram your luggage compartment with all the groceries you can fill. They yell at you if you haven’t paid (although you have paid). They never stop the bus, they just slow to a crawl in the middle of the street, and yell at you if you don’t get off at your “stop”, wherever that may be, even when motorcycles from behind the bus overtake from the left and almost hit you.They treat motorcycles with equal vigor – buses just simply cut from right to left without calculation, leaving confused motorcyclists in their wake; well, the new ones at least. More senior motorcyclists know how to avoid careening buses and cut off cars at the same time.Who’s to say regular cars are off the hook? Crashes take place frequently, from the near-misses, slight dents to the definite payback of insurance. And they don’t even care if they did damage to your car. Whenever the buses want to change lanes, they just cut along, whether there are cars or not in said lane, and the bus crew stares at the cars if they protest. There is also a daily traffic jam at Sudirman, in front of Universitas Atmajaya caused by buses just waiting for passengers. When they want to overtake you, they tailgate you, or try to ram you from right or left until you give way. In some cases, in a two-way two-lane street, they take the right lane and force everyone coming from the other direction to stop and give way. And I’m not even going to talk about the freakish accidents, involving motorcycles, speeding and jumping into rivers, because usually the drivers split the scene and are never to be heard of again at any major accident.So when people talk about high-level corruption and disregard of the law in government, political or business circles, who’s to say it doesn’t happen at other levels as well?

How To Tackle Environmental Problems In Jakarta

Hey kids, here are some sure-fire ways to help Mother Earth combat all sorts of environmental problems arising in Jakarta:don’t drive – your car pollutes!don’t take the bus – the bus pollutes even more!don’t take a motorcycle – even though the emissions are low, your bike combined with the 2 million others on the road equals… more pollution!don’t smoke – smoke is pollutiondon’t buy factory-packaged food – because more likely than not, the discarded package will end up in the river or a landfill somewhere and not properly treateddon’t buy those enviroment-friendly bags – because most likely you will forget you bought them and keep using plastic bagsdon’t ride a bike – the pollution will choke you to deathdon’t go to parks – because most likely you will litter. Admit it.don’t go on weekend trips to the countryside – imagine the energy used and the pollution causeddon’t buy books or magazines – the paper comes from somewhere, right? Unless you know for certain that it’s recycled.don’t piss of your friends – making people angry causes unnecessary use of energy, and can even cause more energy misuse: I don’t think using a chainsaw to cut people down constitutes fair use of energy.don’t make useless blogs – every computer usage for reading or writing useless blogs, like this one, eats up energy and increases our carbon footprint (as we still don’t have alternative energy sources in Jakarta). So log off, you sod!

Could You Draw The Curtains, Please?

One of my favourite shows on TV – if ever I actually can stand to watch some – is MTV’s Pimp My Ride. It’s not that I’m a car modification addict, I’m not – but the things they do to these old, beat-up cars are unbeleiveable. Their work elevates from standard car modding to works of art – I mean, what car mod shop would think of putting in a picnic table and stoves in a 1950s car? Or a massive, ear-crunching sub-woofer that nobody really needs? But the mods are creative, stylish (and usually painful on the eyes because of the colors and detailing) and always a laugh.Enter Jakarta car modifications. I get the spoiler sets, I get airbrushing – hang on, I get the airbrushing if the design is good. Jakarta has many promising artists but sadly the people commisioning the car airbrushing don’t have, erm, good taste so we’re left with multiple images of Batman on that Toyota Celica. C’mon, you can do better than that.I don’t get the loud mufflers – what are mufflers for? I don’t get trimming down your car so it just slides centimeters off the road – until you hit a pothole, not uncommon in Jakarta. I don’t get the massive sound systems which are always turned up to the max – who’s listening, the car’s occupants or everybody outside? And I find those flashing lights and strobes disturbing – you’d think the police are pulling you over seeing a blue strobe to find it’s a couple kids in a party car, spilling beer all over the seats and yelling at each other over the din of the sound system.Here’s the absolute kicker for me – curtains for car windows. What, do you expect you’ll be sleeping in your car one day, and need a bit of privacy? Or a quick change of clothes in the car,  because your friend just vomited all over you? Oh, probably for making out in the back seat, although the curtains are affixed to the front windows also. Don’t tell me it’s for covering up against the harsh sun – the maxed-out window tint film would do that for you. And you forget, the biggest windows of them all, the front and rear windshields – no curtain!