I lived overseas for a year and half prior to the big hiatus that lasted longer than it should. And every single Friday night Jakarta time, I used to thank God for sparing me the nightmare that was and is Jakarta traffic jam.
Even when I started living in Jakarta again, due to the nature of the hiatus, I don’t really venture out to the triangle of traffic death (I can go on and on with the name calling, by the way) that often. So again I have been spared from the probabilities of bursting into flames after hours sitting in the middle of the jam watching the motorcycles passing through the car like water flowing through the rocks. Slowly chipping away as they slap your trunk or put a dent here and there due to their haphazardly enthusiastic method of bike riding.
The above painting came out after the first day I finally drove out of my little comfortable bubble of a suburb and venture into the scary south world.
And I am impressed.
In the span of 18 months that I left home, some super progressive company in Jakarta must have managed to invent and properly distribute a new innovation to all its motorcycle riders. The Unlimited Lives Helmet. Or in Indonesian it’s got the catchy name of “Helm Anti Mati”. Whoever wears it shall have no fear of death as the helmet would protect them through and through. And whoever can’t afford to get one, they could just rub their hands on their neighboring bike riders, who would of course be sporting said helmet, I mean, who wouldn’t, and get 80% of the promised benefit.
Otherwise, how would you explain the death-defying acts performed daily on the street?
Squeezing through two cars side by side and come out the other side with a huge grin and blasting away into the horizon! No problem, child play tricks. Ride against the traffic flow? Why not! Only dead fish flow with the current. Go on the pedestrian walkways? Yes sir. Ten points for each pedestrian you honk and 25 that you knock over. Pass cars from right and left at the very last second at neck-breaking speed? Even better if you coordinate with the bike from the other side of the car. Figure ice skaters would’ve been proud to watch such finesse maneuvers. Traffic light? What traffic light? Just go right in the middle of the intersection, and go whenever there’s space to do so. All the other bikes wait there anyway. It’s like what they say you know. “Makan nggak makan yang penting kumpul.” Eat or not eat, hanging out rules y’all. And if you don’t like that the car who accidentally blocks your way, slap them real good. Who do they think anyway? They’re not the ones wearing The Unlimited Lives Helmet, no?
And thus describes my amusement toward the daily death-defying acts that I never signed up for but continuously forced to partake as props whenever I get behind the wheel.