Friday, October 16, 2015

Traffic Tribulation, Jakarta Edition

If you're looking for a way to maintain your sanity while living in Jakarta, I have an advice: don't.

Do your utmost fucking best to not live here. Do your damnedest to earn your living elsewhere. Do so, now.

Because Jakarta turns your heart hard. Jakarta makes swear words easy to utter, and even easier to regularly mutter. I don't need to fucking swear in this sentence―but I do, as Jakarta beckons me to.

I apologize for my being uncouth, but it is terribly hard to resist when you are subjected to the vagaries of the Jakarta's traffic, daily.

Case in point.
So maybe I have an advice after all: avoid commuting. Cars, buses, trains, motorcycle, anything.

Cars are terrible. Everybody complains about the traffic, but have you noticed that car owners often complain the loudest? For many, I guess they can no longer register irony.

Cars are horrible. They are comfortable and convenient, and they are so at the expense of your sensibility. How else can you encase yourself in a bubble of privilege (toll roads), entitlement (I can neither impute qualms  nor compunction to car drivers using bus lanes, clogging the way for many more bus riders), and self-righteousness ("Motor riders these days, God!")?

Buses are no better. If you have ever used a kopaja, I am sure at one point you must have questioned whether along with the money you tendered, you agreed to also surrender your safety, hope, and life.

Step to enter a bus, and you enter a battle. The musical chair is a game that never ends in buses―with music that only erratically plays. Winning will give your legs respite, but it is good only for a short while because you will be tortured by something else: guilt.

With nearly 13 million people living, working in Jakarta, God forbid your bus will be empty with enough seats for everybody. So you may have to grapple with questions about your own self-image of a decent person when you find it awfully hard to give up your seat to a nice-looking young woman standing on the aisle. Or a late 50-something year old man. You will wonder, to what end does courtesy extend? Is it ever justified for one―for me―to take a seat in a bus?

God forbid your metromini will be empty, because you'll then have to come up with a strategy. Sit up front, risk your eardrum ruptured with the loud buzzing of its old engine. Sit in the middle, be ready to be annoyed by the street buskers playing their off-key tunes. Sit on the back, be ready to receive extra harassment when said buskers did not get any coin from passengers in the front and middle. And many won't even play music, they would just menacingly insinuate criminal counterfactuals, "Uang dua ribu tidak dibawa mati, bapak-ibu yang bajunya rapi. Daripada kami kembali ke jalan kriminal, mencopet dan mencuri."

You must be insane if you resort to commute by train. Packed like sardines in a tin, getting your clothes wrinkled would be the least of your worries when you get off the train. If you are a novice rider, most likely you will learn the hard way that you have to literally wrestle your way out of the carriage if you don't want to miss your stop. Which will happen. And it will totally suck, because train stations are few and far between in Jakarta.

On the other hand, it's not like there's any guarantee that the train will arrive on schedule. Signal troubles are common, and they will make multiple trains stuck just before entering Manggarai interchange station. And when that happen, I can guarantee you that people will start grumbling, poisoning the air within the carriage with their negativity. Worst of all, you're stuck with them until the trouble is resolved and you can get off.

Getting off the train is not the end of the journey, though. Because hordes of ojek will greet you at the exit gate. And if you're already late (see signal trouble above) it's very tempting to kick yourself for not having the foresight to just order an online ojek in the first place.

When that happens, give it time. If you're thinking clearly you will remember that there are good reasons for not doing so. You can't do anything else when you are riding with an ojek, you'll need your hand to grip something so that you won't get thrown off the seat. You'll need to provide navigation. You'll sweat and it will be unsightly and you will reek of sun and road. And above all, you'll wonder why you consented to let Jakarta's daily commute debase and dehumanize you.

This city is not fit for human habitation.

I know, call me irate. I can't help it. Jakarta fills me with rage.

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