How I am going to die. That sounds so morbid, but it's the only thought that crossed my mind and I plunged headlong into traffic yesterday.
Most assuredly, my undoing will be done on one of the many motorcyle taxis, called "ojeks" that swarm through the city. I first noticed them from the airport, when two scooters ran into each other, right in front of us. The drivers and their passengers weren't hurt - on the contrary, they just laughed, the girl picked up one of her shoes that had fallen off, and they were all four on their merry way.
Literally, these moto drivers are EVERYWHERE, like swarms of flies. If your car stops in traffic, you are soon overtaken, surrounded, woven around (practially driven over) and swept aside by hordes of these things. It's a strange mixture of herd mentality and "all for one" thinking.
I have had friends travel throughout SE Asia and report back on this amazing and terrfying mode of transport. Never did I ever think I would ride one.
Well, as it turns out, Jakarta is a pretty poor place for public transportation. It's very spread out, the bus system is slow, the traffic jams are slower and what's a subway? In fact, my first impression of the city is that a) it's huge and b) it seems to only be housed either by very small shacks or very large, shiney skyscrapers. Also, if the path between my hotel and the office is any indication for the rest of the city, sidewalks are rocky (and half complete/under construction!) making walking just as risky (if not riskier!)
So yesterday, one of my co-workers took me out to lunch, and as there is nothing but two small diners in our office complex, we set our destination to "setiabuti" - a plaza complex just down the way. Before I could gather my things, James had hailed two "ojeks" and soon I was on the back of one, trying to find a modest place to cling to the driver. (I settled on his lovehandles, but stopped just short of hugging/clutching him outright!). Taking a taxi - aka normal traffic - would mean sitting in atleast 25 minutes of gridlock, vs the whizzing in and out of cars, sidewalks (even oncoming traffic) that the ojek drivers could accomplish.
Going slowly, it was easy to manoeuvre in and out without too much sweat, but when the road opened up, the driver pulled into the opposite lane. What about oncoming cars, you say? Oh, they kept coming. I couldn't decide whether to close my eyes or watch my death or squeeze my knees in tighter (but still decent) so as not to get hit by rear-view mirrors. I thought European roads were tight, but sweet mother, my toe grazed the passing car tire!
And I found out: a funny thing happens when you realize that this is the way you're going to die.
You keep your eyes open.
Once I stopped sucking air across my teeth (you know, the way mom's do) and accepted my fate, I relaxed. Actually, I think I started laughing (a crazy, OMGwhyonearthamIdoingthis laugh). To my surprise, I didn't get more than nicked and the whole ordeal didn't cost me more than 50cents.
Let's hope it doesn't cost me any more!
M is for moto-madness,