No need to push, dude.
I have heard this sentence being uttered (in Indonesian, English, French and everything in between, and sometimes intertwined with profanities) everywhere a queue of people is in sight. At the ATM, at the bus stop, getting off airplanes, getting on airplanes, at the doctor’s, at music concerts, at the movies, at the Debenhams midnight sale, basically anywhere and everywhere people are supposed to form a line. The simple disciplinary act of waiting in line patiently for your turn is a somewhat difficult and complex concept for people in Jakarta to wrap their brains around.
I will use the example of the just landed airplane. When I’m in a plane and we have just landed and the plane is just about to make a complete stop, for some reason everyone in the cabin simultaneously stand up, grab their luggage from the overhead compartments and crowd the aisle waiting for the doors to be opened. They stand there with a heavy travel bag in one arm, a cell phone in the other and another smaller (but not necessarily small) bag on their shoulder. And they remain standing until the doors open at which point they proceed to push their way out of the plane and into another bustling line at the baggage claim. Even before the first piece of luggage touches the conveyor belt, these people have already formed an impenetrable human wall surrounding the perimeter of the slow-moving baggage claim. Why?
I take my time getting off a plane, and I take my time getting my luggage and I even stop sometimes to take a piss, and even after all that time I took dilly-dallying, I’m still not far behind those other pushy people to exit the airport. So again I ask why? Seriously, I want to know.
I must say this about Jakarta. The people know how to make a buck. They are extremely creative in thinking of ways to make a profit, no matter how small. Take for example the 3 in 1 jockeys, or the umbrella-carrying kids that magically appear when it starts raining. When Jakarta hits rain season and it starts to flood, I bet I can find someone that rents out their rubber floatie to transport you across the street that has transformed into a brown river. This phenomenon is no doubt linked to Jakarta’s super-consumerist tendencies.
Because most people in Jakarta just love to spend their money, millions of opportunities arise for the simpleton to earn some cash.
There is a guy at my office who sells CD’s with your own personal mix on it for 15 thousand rupiah. He downloads the songs you request on Limewire, burns them on a CD and prints out a song-list to stick on the CD cover. Simple, yet profitable. Who doesn’t know how to operate Limewire, right? Yet people still come to him with their song requests and he still doles out the pirated CD’s and he’s making quite a fortune (sort of). With so many opportunities to make money, sometimes I wonder why so many people in Jakarta are so poor. Which brings us to the letter W, but later, we’ll get there.
Punctuality? What’s that?
Okay so the traffic makes everything and everyone move in slow motion. Which is why being on time is like seeing the virgin mary crying blood; it’s the nearest thing to a miracle you will ever get in this jaded metropolis.
There is Greenwich Mean Time, and then there’s Jakarta Mean Time. With JMT, you add 2 hours to the specified time, so the mathematical formula goes like this: JMT = (GMT+7) + 2. So when someone says, “See you at 4!” it usually means see you at 6. And so on. That is how you tell time in Jakarta.
It’s always interesting to hear the excuses for this infectious lateness. The majority say, “Fucking traffic.” But there are some people who really get creative with their excuse for being late. Good amusement.
“I was pulled over for being white. The cop asked for two hundred fifty thou rupiahs. Damn racist.”
“I was driving and I realized I forgot my phone so I went back home to get it, then when I left home I realized I forgot if I turned the AC off so I went back home to check, then when I left home again I suddenly needed to poo so I went back home and did my doody. And now here I am.”
“We picked up a ‘joki’ to get through 3 in 1 and she ended up giving us hand jobs for an extra tip. Sorry.”
“I got distracted by the rippling muscles of the Merdeka Statue on my way by, and I was fantasizing that he was my naughty pizza delivery boy and I crashed into a Metro Mini. Sowwy.”
Again, good amusement.