04 February 2017

International Guide For Driving Or Riding In Jakarta

One cannot be considered has truly experienced Jakarta if he or she has not tried to drive a car there, on its highways, in its traffic, in rush hour, behind the steering wheel. But that is only second to the ultimate challenge, the surreal life and death experience, the act of courage and totality, one way to become one with the city itself, feeling and living its heartbeat; riding a motor bike. If any of you really want to be elevated to that level of understanding of Jakarta, this International Guide is created to facilitate that purpose.

Disclaimer: Although this International Guide is very rich in detailed facts, one must understand that most of them, if not all, are potentially against the law, and that this International Guide is basically a style of writing that uses humor, irony, exaggeration, and ridicule to expose and criticize something. Both the writer and the writing of this International Guide cannot be held responsible in case anything happened, either good or bad, that resulted from reading or practicing the content of this International Guide.

1. Rules Are Suggestions

Like any other big cities around the world, there are a lot of traffic rules and traffic signs in Jakarta. What you must understand is that in Jakarta, those are basically suggestions. You are warned not to make a U-turn at this spot, not to enter the Bus Way lane, not to go through a one-way road, not to park, not to stop, or to stop, to limit your speed at 60 kmph, to stay outside yellow box junction, to prioritize crossing pedestrians, etc. There's a rule to drive on the right lane if you want to speed up and pass other vehicles, to drive in a certain lane according to your destination, to ride your motorbike on the left lane, to stay in the lane and don't cross the continuous line.

But those are all suggestions and the line separating the lanes itself can be considered imaginary, you may forget about its existence, the road is open wide, do as you like. All the rules, the signage, and the markings on the road are suggestions. Which may be followed, or - where situation permits - may not be followed.

Like the nature of every suggestion, the rules of the traffic in this city are open for discussion and debate. Traffic light might be glaring red furiously, but the road is empty, or can be considered so, more or less, well at least you know you can hit the gas and do that courageous slick maneuver to avoid all the other vehicles and go through, because wouldn't it be a great waste of fuel to just stay idle? Then there are no-U-turn sign, clearly and unambiguously standing, but the next U-turn is far away ahead, and you certainly don't want to be the bad guy who adds up the congestion on the route ahead, do you? Be kind, do the U-turn anyway. Then we have always been told that on the toll road, the furthest left lane is only for emergency situations, but the traffic is too ridiculously jammed while you are a person of tremendous importance handling matters of interstellar significance, so it is very understandable, don't think twice, enter the dragon.

When you ride a motorbike, the rule is to ride it on the left lane, wearing a helmet, and only two persons are allowed per motorbike. Remember, they are all actually only suggestions. You can ride it on the middle lane, on the right lane, between other vehicles, stunt a race with trailer trucks, ride against the traffic direction, on the pedestrian path, or hike up and ride on the pedestrian crossing-bridge. You don't have to wear the helmet if it's not convenient, you can wear a hat, skull cap, veil, or just don't wear anything at all. We know it is absolutely wasting time, sultry, and heavy to wear that ugly safety device.

2. Know Your Officers

As said before, road suggestions are always open for discussion and debate, but don't debate it with the officers, certain kind of officers to be exact, because it'll be very hard to debate them about the suggestions. They sometimes somewhat doesn't want to understand that from your point of view, you clearly do no wrong, not at all, or at least that you have a very good explanation for your wrongdoing, a very logical reason why you didn't follow the suggestion. You will most probably end up losing the argument and have to pay the price, either figuratively or literally.

Because of that, you need to know your officers; what kind of officers are there, which one is what, how they look like, what are their tasks, what can they do to you, where are they stationed, what roads are guarded heavily, at what time are they prepared, and at what time are they relaxed. There are at least three kinds of officer on the road, maybe more; the brown with boots and lime vest, the plain brown with certain text on their patrol car, the plain brown with handgun, or the one with long barrel, the brown with maroon tie, or the bluish officers with boots and helmet.

Not all of those officers are lethal for your suggestions-debating acts, not all of them will inconsiderately beat your argumentations, just don't pick the wrong opponent. To be safe, you can discuss and debate the so-called rules with your conscience instead; of course it says screw all the suggestions, you're here to win.

3. The Mindset Of A Champion, The Attitude Of A King

To survive on the roads of Jakarta, let alone accomplishing what you are being there for, you have to have the mindset of a champion and the attitude of a king. Open your eyes and look all those people with their vehicles in this city, they are not there to give you some space to move forward, they are not there to be kind to you, not to let you change lane, not to let you make a U-turn, not a chance, not even a bit. They are there to beat you, to speed up and to pass over you and to block you and to close your way and not to let you steal that little space. They all are there to compete with each other, you are in a race, all the other people on the road are competitors. And that's how they will see you too, a competitor. Be kind to them? Not in the slightest mind, they will mock you and despise you and then stab you from behind.

Once you seat yourself behind the steering wheel, or once you sit your ass down on the cushioned seat of a motorbike, from that moment on, that is your throne, that you must defend with all your strength, and command the vehicle to advance bravely like a death squad marching forward towards the enemy to send them to the eternity of hell.

Of course there will be some little amount of danger involved. Tiny bit of danger. But remember, the mindset of a champion. Those dangers of striking something, from walls to pedestrians, or being struck, by motorbike or by 18 wheeled truck, those all are challenges for you to overcome. You are the champion, the king of the road, you have to be aggressive, you'll take every opportunity to be the best, to skip every obstacle, let it be traffic jam or traffic light, they are there only to slow your advances down, disregard every suggestion, hail to the king!

4. Understand Your Priorities

Don't get me wrong, it always is stupid to be lack of priorities set, including in the battlefield of Jakarta. You got to have priorities, either the short-term and the long-term. First on the list is certainly to accomplish your mission. Anything else can follow suit, including your own safety, but it always comes second to getting the job done.

In fact it comes third. Or maybe fourth instead. Because your time is very, very precious, so you have to get things done as fast as possible, and your comfortability is also very important, sometimes more than your life. Forget the seatbelt and the helmet, just hit the pedal to the floor or twist the handlebar quickly!

And then the safety of the others. Unfortunately the list of your priorities is full, so you don't have to even think about it.

5. Skill Of The Devil

Now you almost have all the knowledge needed, but the most important thing to have, which I can only do little for you, is skill. There are several kinds of skill that you have to master, there's no one particular skill that's superior compared to the other, you'll need to analyse the situation and decide what style is suitable to be used, you'll need to change your style, sometimes abruptly, when the situation demands so.

First, of course you have to be capable of driving or riding as if straight, disciplined and unbendable, perfectly and flawlessly in accord with the suggestions. This skill will be of use mainly, maybe we can say only, when there is that specific type of officer near you. But don't stay there for there's nothing to be gained there, once the situation allows, you have to always challenge yourself.

Several other skills that you have to master in order to drive or ride properly in Jakarta are; the skill of driving or riding violently raging like volcanic eruption; the technique of flowing smoothly and irresistibly like fluid permeates in between pebbles and sands; style of the cunning thief monkey slyly stealing every inch of space available; the quality of the rocks - tough and resilient and robust in disregarding anything while moving gracefully like a dowager who had too many near death experiences in her life (this is very useful if you are a minibus driver); and many other skills out there that you have to learn one by one, practice again and again, let them sink in to your muscles and bone and let them flow in your blood.

And once you have mastered the skills, you have to enhance them continuously, elevate yourself tirelessly, practice them everyday, try to reach the highest level of understanding and proceeding skill of Jakarta's road. Eventually you'll become one with the road; the Tao of being in harmony with The Way, the sacred Sufism of being the road itself, the Godly way of driving and riding.

The last thing you have to remember regarding the skills is that you have to pass them to your descendants and to every offspring of mankind, as much as possible, as far as possible, and of course, earlier better. That's the knighthood spirit of this great city. They teach their teenagers how to drive cars and let them hit the road before they reach the suggestions' minimum age. They let their children ride motorbikes even at a much earlier age. Some said motorbike is the best present for 10th birthday.

6. When Shit Happens

This will be a short closing note. Sometimes shit happens, either to you or to other people around you, that's just the fact of life and how the mother earth piss us off to please her sick taste of humor.

What do you do when shit happens to other? Watch. Plain and simple. Slow down your movement, open the window, enjoy the show, listen carefully, snap some pictures if you feel like to do it, shout some provocative insults if there's argumentation between the involved parties, let all the other vehicles wait and crawl behind you. Don't feel hesitate, they will do the same.

What do you do when minor shit happens to you? No matter who is wrong, and especially if you are the one who is actually wrong, you immediately get out of your car, slam your door, angry, raging, shouting, exaggerate the situation, hyperbolically show the sheer destruction that the other party has done, then ask for responsibility for what happened - no matter how minuscule it is.

What do you do when major shit happens to you? Pray.

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