Monday, February 4, 2008

A whole other league

There are only two things you can politely complain in public about the country: corruption, and macet. Those are so engrained in Jakartan daily life that it is in lesson 2 of my book “Teach yourself bahasa indonesia” – just after the standard “Hello my name is” – that I learned how to say: Maaf saya terlambat. Saya terjebak macet (sorry to be late, I was stuck in traffic).

In Jakarta, we don’t have traffic jams. We have macet (pronounce “matchet”). It’s just not the same thing. When you’re stuck in traffic, your finger taps the wheel wondering if you’ll make it home on time for the opening of American Idol or if the potatoes will already be cold. When you’re stuck in macet, you don’t know if you’ll make it home for dinner or breakfast.

In my experience, there are several explanations to macet (below is definitely not an exhaustive list) :

- just because

- someone is trying to turn right (we drive on the left side here) so he’s blocking your lane for 20 minutes, the time necessary for him to find a moron on the opposite lane willing to let him pass. The moron is screwed because generally a long line had time to form behind our first man, so it’s Moron's time to be stuck, while they all to pass in front of him (and you, by the way). No wonder nobody in their right mind ever lets a car cut a line, which explains why, if you have to take a right, you'll block everyone trying to squeeze in

- there’s a flood

- you’re on the lane waiting to make a U-turn. Jakarta is a marvel of urbanization, you often must drive several kilometers in the wrong direction just so that you can U-turn somewhere ;

- you’re on a road plyed by buses that stop anywhere to pick up and drop their passengers ;

- there are too many cars, too few roads throughout the whole city ;

- there’s a cop who, for an unknown reason, is blocking your lane branching into a flowing lane, in order to gesture to the passing cars that they can go. Oh they know they can, as they’ve been laughing at you when flying by. More to come on the Terus Guy

- there’s a demo (demonstration. Jakarta easily stands its ground with my native France in terms of numbers of street protests).

God bless the Ipod, podcasts, mobile internet and cell phones.

4 comments:

Toccata said...

Kind of reminds me of Mexico City, especially the buses stopping whenever and wherever. I live in a city that is known for its drivers stopping at pedestrian crosswalks. When I travel I have to always remember that not most cities ignore crosswalks regardless if you happen to be in the middle of it or not.

S├ębastien said...

Je compatis compl├Ętement ! The same in Manila, just the same, where I can add some reasons in that so US-kind of city :
- this is the 14th, or the 30th of a month, and they all run out to the malls with their salary, because Filipinos cannot stand long with a small savings.
- This is a friday and the 30th of the month... and then, you ve just adopted a new friend for 5 hours : the taxi driver !

Esther said...

True, this is so true and almost funny that is if you are not living with it...

Brooke said...

Ummm...I didnt see a mention of me in your blog?! Also refer to our August post to see your picture and names. Thats more than you can say.