Tuesday, November 04, 2003

The World of the Basement

The World of the Basement

All drivers and front passengers in Jakarta will have to wear seat belts starting tomorrow. Having accustomed myself to using seat-belts in Malaysia, I used to buckle up instinctively everytime I take the front passenger seat. But I've since got rid of the habit, as some of my Indonesian friends think I'm questioning their driving skills if I do that. Now it looks like I have reacquire the habit again.

I have written before about the relative patience of drivers here compared to those in Malaysia. Of course, one can always find exceptions but in general, I think this is a fairly accurate picture. The traffic here is more chaotic, hence minor transgressions are always tolerated. Everyone takes liberties with traffic rules.

What I also admire here are the tukang parkirs (parking attendants) and satpams (building security guards) who would go out of their way to help you look for a parking space. The satpams are quite wonderful people--I think they even see it as part of their job to help people park.

Of course, parking space is used a lot more efficiently here. Double and triple parking is the norm: It is an unwritten rule that those who double-park, will not engage their car handbrakes--so that their cars can be pushed aside if necessary, to enable the cars inside to come out.

Help is always available in the streets or in parking basements. Flat tire? No problem. There will always be drivers or tukang parkirs who will be ready to lend a helping hand--for a tip, of course. See some reserved parking spaces? Tip the tukang parkir and it's yours.

In some ways, driving in Jakarta is a lot less stressful because of all these. Well, if you are tired of driving yourself, you can always afford your own supir (chauffeur). Parking basements here are very supir-friendly: There's always a corner with TV and benches reserved for these supirs who spend most of their time waiting for their masters' "car call" from the PA system.

Usually a small warteg (cheap eating stall) would also sprout up beside it and you can see these supirs smoking and chatting happily there among themselves--a micro-community among themselves. Every tiny nook and corner of Jakarta is filled with humanity and the struggle for survival--even in dingy basement parkings.

Yes, there are lots of sufferings but there are simple joys too: The simple joys of basement people which I am often very envious of.

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