Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Transportation is a right (as you have the right to be frustrated)

Jakarta give the word traffic an entirely new meaning.  If you can visualize any traffic jam in the States or Greater Europe you may think of lines of cars on a highway, not moving.  There might be a horn or two.  It generally happens on holiday weekends.  Labor Day  or Independence Day in the States is the best example.  In Jakarta, the traffic is worse than Labor Day all year round. Traffic doesn't line up in nice, neat rows. I have been at round-abouts with cars at 90 degree angles to each other.  A road that you'd think in the US could accommodate 3 perpendicular lanes of travel can be seem with cars 5 or 6 across, easily!

A secondary problem (or possibly the root of the problem) might be the variety of modes of transport.  There are cars in small, medium and Hummer size.  The most prevalent option is the motorbike/ojek.  Ojeks are like a taxi, they can be hired to go from point A to point B, but they are motorbikes. The price is set before hand so it's advisable if you only take ojeks on routes where you know the price.

  There is a small van who's door has been removed that runs like a short route bus.  A set route to help people get around the neighborhood.
 Or this kind:

There are large old smelly buses.  Not generally entirely road worthy but they run town to town, or suburb to suburb and they are cheap.  There is busway, a government run bus systems that connects SOME parts of the city with SOME other parts of the city.  It was intended to be a very available option for the masses, until the government ran out of money after building many of the stops.  Now there are lots of vacant stops without buses.

This one is not a government busway bus.
In some parts of Indonesia you can also find becaks (be-chaK). They are a three wheeled bicycle, two in the front and one in the back. 

There's a bench seat in the front for passengers and the driver is in the back. Let's not forget the noisiest option-bajaj.  And the pronunciation for that is Ba-jai.  Don't ask me how it ends up with two j's instead. it's like the motorized version of a becak, the mufflers are loud enough to permanently damage your hearing, the pollution may give you immediate asthma and the shocks (or lack there of) are enough to ruin your rump.  They are big enough for two foreigners or 6 Indonesians and have the benefit of being covered.  They top out at about 20 mph and are for short distances only.

As I have taken up a new job and new residence, I had to also find a means of transport between the two.  Before I was talking 10 minutes to work.  Now I have to travel from South-central Jakarta to East Jakarta.  Don't ask me to estimate the distance because I haven't the slightest. I decided that an ojek would be my preferred method of transport to and from work.  It it much quicker than the bus, though slightly more expensive.  It's lots quicker and cheaper than a taxi.  Plus, by having my own ojek guy, he will be at my door for pick up in the morning and at my school for a ride home. I'll have his cell number and he's basically on call for me. It's beneficial for him too because they don't usually know how much they'll make in a month.  With me, they'll have a fixed minimum and then can do other running about while I'm at work.  This was a great plan in theory.  IN THEORY.

My ojek guy turned out to be a whopping nightmare.  He was alright the first week.  Within the next three weeks we had the following incidents:
a) he couldn't pick me up because water in the muffler rendered his bike disabled.
b) he couldn't take me out because of a broken headlight and it was after dark
c) he was late on 3 out of 4 pick ups over 2 days
d) his phone, on different occasions, both ran out of battery and credit
e) he show up at the wrong place to meet me, without his phone, so after waiting an hour I gave up.
f) he show up 20 minutes late, then stopped for gas on the way to the airport. After which I had to sprint 300m to and through the airport to avoid missing my flight check in by only 3 minutes. All of this after I told him the day before that I had to go to the airport, to make sure he had gas and it was important he was on time.
g) he requested a loan on Friday after receiving his pay for the week on Thursday.
h) Final straw was finding a new guy yesterday for this morning.  The previous guy messaged me this morning telling me I could come pick up my helmet and rain suit  (that I paid for and tried to get the night before) and asked to be paid.  I told him that I had not only paid him what I owed him, but he's walked off with over 500,000 Rp in gas and mechanic money from the month.  He proceeded to message me 5 times over the next 20 minutes insisting that I owed him more money.  I would have hit him if he'd been in range.

I'm being the better, bigger and calmer person by letting it go.  i have found a new guy who will hopefully prove to be more trustworthy and have a bit more forethought than the last guy.  Sokardi, new driver, also has a newer bike with a slightly softer seat.  Yes, seat cushion makes a difference during 40 minutes rides.
Keep your fingers crossed just the same.


  1. Fingers are crossed! Good luck!
    P.S. In Japan, if there's a car waiting to get on to the main road from, say, a car park, the car in the main road sometimes STOPS to politely let the entering car in front! True story!

  2. That would NEVER happen here. It's just one of the many reasons I couldn't drive here. Some of the others being that the steering wheel and direction of traffic are backward (yes, you heard me), and I would surely kill someone within the first day.
    Stopping and waiting politely does often happen in Seattle and it usually followed by a wave of gratitude.