the taxi driver test

the past few days i've just been remembering some things, trying to find some meaning in what has been a difficult few days.

today of course i flagged down a taxi and told him that i wanted to go to the bung karno stadium in senayan, jakarta. "to watch the match?" he asked. there, football is the first ice-breaker here, as it was with some of my older colleagues. just something we have in common. he was of course, going back to watch the match on tv, live matches are a luxury (though not expensive), but after a long day of driving it's preferable just to kick up your feet and watch it on tv.

anyway, there was a lot of pride in tuesday's result against bahrain, but it would be difficult against saudi arabia. he also warned me that people burnt chairs and riot when they got angry, citing the recent case of persijia (jakarta) vs one of the surabaya teams. and he told me to be careful, generally. and his embarassment that the lights went off and the world saw it. the shake of the head, and then the discussion turned to floods and flooding.

sustained conversation brings out the flaws in my badly accented and poorly constructed indonesian sentences, so he was clever enough to ask where i was from. "singapore", i said, but my parents are indonesian. "singapore, ah, i want to work there". yes, singapore, the place that everyone wants to work in. "better than living from hand to mouth everyday here." fyi, a taxi driver typically takes back 10% of the metered fare here, and 15% over Rp300,000 ($50) made in a day. all other costs are covered. however, this is data from one of the most reputable taxi agencies in jakarta, blue bird, where drivers go through at least some rudimentary training in service, so one can imagine that the taxis which charge "tarif lama" with a lower initial flag down of Rp4000 (the one that i take) earn less. compared to minimum wage it's pretty good already, and taxi drivers are the entrepreneurs. they are employed, and they have dreams of going to singapore to drive. how he is to accomplish it, i dare not ask, but at least he has this dream. so a tip goes a long way (and is often expected here), on a trip of 13,500 rupiahs, just not asking for the change for 1,500 doubles his earnings from the trip. whether it is appropriate or not, i am sure an economist somewhere will give you some justification on either side.

so he asked, what was i doing working in indonesia? i can't be here to "cari makan" (look for food), because the wages have got to be higher in singapore. i gave him some bullshit about mutual understanding and interest which he probably didn't buy (nor did i). why was i here? economic rules dictate that i should be in london, new york and hong kong, just as economic rules dictate that maids come from indonesia and the phillipines and go to singapore. what large forces these are. i was a civil servant of some sort i said, serving some master. we all are maids or drivers of some sort, and we have some dream, to go to singapore for you, and for me, maybe become big fuck enough so that i can command some of these economic forces in my favour. but unlike him i have some sort of luxury (just like he has by simply having a job, he is not one of those 13% unemployed shut out by the riots against the reforming of the labour law), i can choose maybe to sail against the winds a bit, what they call pumping in windsurfing. i don't know where the winds will take me too, eventually. it might be better to chase the dream, save up, and buy a liner.

i arrived at the stadium, godspeed to me. the queue for the tickets was crushing, and touts were everywhere (and the forever entrepreneurial underemployed, taking the opportunity to sell keropok and fake bambang jerseys (i have not seen a single original indonesian jersey except the one on the player's backs)). buses were coming in from nearby cities, made possible because this was a weekend match. it wasn't the world cup, but for these people the world cup is a thing they see on tv, the asian cup is something they wear face paint and come down for. pure passion. the ticketing system was horrible, i had reservations, but forget it, it doesn't work like that here. impressed by the stadium though, it is currently more modern than the national stadium and it's massive, 100,000 people.

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