Jakarta (The Jakarta Post/ANN) - In Jakarta, people from different backgrounds can spend most of their lives in their own world without rubbing shoulders.
There are different places to hang out, different malls to shop in, different restaurants to dine at, different playgrounds and so on.
But only on the roads do people tend to blend in together. Roads are often the only way to get somewhere, as trains run only to a few stations while the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system and monorail are still somewhere over the rainbow.
So every day, people collectively make about 20 million trips around the city, mostly in private vehicles, according to the Public Works Ministry, which produces a mixed bag of drivers with different degrees of expertise and discipline on Jakarta's roads.
Expecting ideal road conditions and driving etiquette from other road users is a recipe for an accident, of which I have experienced one too many.
After some scratches and bumps, almost killing an underage rider who had swirled suddenly into my path, seeing a cement-mixing truck inched into my car and after changing two side mirrors, one windshield and a backdoor, eventually I gained an insight into Jakarta's traffic scenarios and what to watch out for.
Someone must have hidden the signboards. If you are lost and are in need of road sign, look for the bushiest trees. Your road sign is most probably hiding behind one and you probably will miss it. This is normal.
Missing the junction - again. If you need to know the right route to take at the junction, or where to find the toll road entry, the road sign is placed right at the fork. By the time you see it, you are either at wrong lane so you can't make your turn, or the queue is so long that if you try to snuggle in, a police officer will book you for disrupting traffic flow.
U-turns can exist either at the middle divider or under a flyover. And again, the signboard only appears right at the junction and there you are, mostly in the right lane and preparing to take the U-turn only to find out you must instead race over the flyover headlong into another kilometer of macet (traffic jams).
It's not what I say, but what I do. Every car and motorcycle has turning indicators, so I wondered why so few people used them. Instead, apply body language rules here:
- If you look at the cars and motorcycles, most have signal lamps installed. But don't count on them. Observe if the car is moving relatively to the left or right, that's the turning signal. Don't curse if drivers do this, they don't hate you. It's just the way it is.
- If a motorcycle rider starts fidgeting, he or she is about to change lane or make a turn.
Judge a book by its cover. If you see someone without a helmet, it's the first signal he or she goes wherever the wind blows. Left, middle, or right lane? Take your pick! He or she covers it all in seconds.
Responsible riders are the ones who wear helmets, jackets and gloves. Any driver or rider aged below the age of 20 is highly unpredictable so, when driving close to them take care.
Why is the rabbit not jumping? Cars traveling at a medium speed with more than a 5-meter gap from the car in front have drivers on the phone. Making phone calls and slowing down other people is a rule of the game.
Taxis in leftmost lanes are in stop-go-stop mode. The drivers inside are looking for passengers.
Cars with open windows are usually slow. In most cases, the driver is smoking and couldn't care less that others are going to be late for work.
Cars that swirl and speed between lanes are most likely to repeat the maneuver. It's best to follow people's advice: "The sane one gives way."
Using busway lanes. If you mindlessly enter Transjakarta busway lane, you have two options: Drive all the way until the end while praying that no police officer sees you, or get out halfway, but do it with real care.
If you purposely enter the busway lane, let's hope the police officer is not waiting for you at the other end.
Am I losing my mind? Being righteous will only send you to the repair shop. It was a hot afternoon when I found out this truth. The road was full, some cars were going straight and others were doing U-turns.
I was sitting in my own lane, feeling righteous and criticizing others cars for cutting into the lanes of others, when I heard a soft bump and a cement truck scratch my car. It was a 5-centimeter scratch from back to front.
I had to make countless phone calls to sort out the insurance claim, make two trips to the workshop and then four weeks without car. I learn my lesson: It doesn't matter who is right and who is wrong, you lose.
A combination of political debate on radio and being stuck in traffic for hours likely doubles the intensity of road rage.
A message for other drivers: I know your car has a full tank and you have your change. I know you probably want to keep your receipt, arrange your bag, tidy up your shirt, comb your hair, touch up your makeup, but can you please drive to the side first. There are three cars waiting for you to move out of the way. Thank you!
At the end of the day, though, there are still things to enjoy if you care to notice: The paddy fields with Mt. Salak in the background, which you can see at the Jakarta-Tangerang toll road; the really friendly toll gate officers who smile to drivers; and the sunset that can be enjoyed when your car is at crawling speed.
If none of these make you feel better, look at the street children, newspaper boys and people who earn their livelihoods from macet. Buy something from them. A little act of solidarity goes a long way and warms your heart.
COPYRIGHT: ASIA NEWS NETWORK