Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Indonesians in the way

I used to complain about the way Madrileños walk down the street.  They always spread across the sidewalk to fill the void.  If there were two people they left a bit of a gap between to fill up at least 70% of the sidewalk.  If there were five people they would more or less string along arm in arm to fill the entire width of the sidewalk.  Walking like this is great for conversation.  It's less than great for the person stuck behind, frantically trying to pass and rush to the subway station to go to class.
Jakartans have topped the Madrileños and then some. Not only can they walk side beside wide enough to fill a mall walkway, but they've found other equally frustrating ways to be in the way.  Elevators are a great example. 98% of the foreigners I know in Jakarta complain about Indonesian elevator etiquette or lack there of. When you are waiting for an elevator and it arrives the Indonesians will immediately bum-rush the door. The problem is that there are usually people in the elevator trying to get out, especially in the malls. There are no alternate exits and I can't give you may space in the elevator until you let me get out. Simple physics. Now move back!!

A couple weeks ago I had a similar experience on an even more absurd level.  I was at a mall with some friends for dinner.  The closest bathroom has a strange layout,  there are three stalls side by side but the walkway to get to them is next to a wall and very narrow.  I have become accustomed to the Indonesian way of lining up outside each individual stall, not making one master line from which the next person proceeds forward. That took some getting used to too.  You have to make your bet on who's going to come out first, who has a child in with them, who's changing clothes, etc.  I queued and went into the stall.  I pride myself on being quick when others are waiting and within a minute or two I opened the door to emerge but couldn't. A teenage girl was barging her way in.  If you think carefully about bathroom stalls, there's not much spare space.  There was no way I was going to be able to go around.  So I laid into her with my arm and pushed out, leaving her to regain her balance.  I left shaking my head.

Another new situation had me astounded once again this morning.  I caught the elevator to the basement of my building where I walk out to meet my ojek.  Usually the elevators are empty but a woman was in it when I got on.  We rode down and she rushed to get out before me as I suspected she would so I hung a step back.  After leaving the elevator you must exit a security door to reach the garage.  She pushed the button to release the door, opened it and then stayed in the door way, bag on one side, arm holding the door on the other and me left with nowhere to go.  The security guard tried to shuffle her out of the way, at which point she turned around and looked at me. She seemed both startled to see me and to be glaring.  WE WERE IN THE ELEVATOR TOGETHER!! She knew I was there.  Where the hell else was I going to go? I gave her a dirty look, to which she was oblivious because she was Indonesian and exited.

I'm starting to think these are all a metaphor for my life in Jakarta.

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