Saturday, August 8, 2009

Dancin' in the Streets

Quite often, weddings or funerals are held in front of a person's home. People completely overtake the street by putting up a makeshift roof and filling the road with chairs or a stage. The front of any home can be transformed into a banquet hall virtually overnight. What is odd about this is that people block the road and set up these structures without any kind of permission. I guess the logic is that everyone will need to use the road for a party at some point so nobody really complains. Today, I woke up to see the house down the road from me setting up for one of these such events. In this instance, it means that I can only leave my house on foot. Anybody wishing to use their motorbike or car will simply have to wait. Today being Saturday, it is not much of an inconvenience. If it were a workday and I was forced to pay for transit to work, I'd probably say well....nothing. in true Javanese fashion, I'd probably just suck it up and pay for a taxi. Luckily, my street does not have much traffic. I have seen streets that have a lot of through traffic get blocked. This can be extremely chaotic and frustrating. Everybody seems to just go with the flow so I do the same.

There was one exception when I couldn't really go with the flow. A couple of years ago, I lived in a different area of town and a different house. The street this house was on had a pretty steady flow of traffic throughout the day. As I was getting ready to go to work, I realized that the house across from mine was setting up for one of these events. I managed to snake my bike through the maze of chairs and made my way to work. Upon returning from work, there was a blockade set up around the corner. An old man standing there told me that I was not allowed to enter. I told him that I lived there and HAD to enter. This man was enjoying playing the cop a little too much and started shouting insults and threatening me. He grabbed my jacket just as I hit the accelerator and he even held on for a few seconds before giving up. There was no way that I was going to leave my bike on the street all night long out in the open almost a kilometer from my house. That night , I managed to get my bike into my gate as there weren't too many chairs set up in the street.

The next day, I inadvertently caused a scene. I opened my gate to take my bike out but didn't realize that somebody had rested a giant floral sign on my gate. Since my gate opened outwards, it knocked over the sign and a few chairs as well. One of the people outside started giving me a hard time. When I pointed out that somebody had rested the sign on my gate and there was literally no exit from my house, somebody else apologized and promised me that it would not happen again. That night, there was no roadblock set up near my house. This saddened me a little as I had envisioned plowing straight through it (and maybe even the makeshift cop) during my drive home. As I got closer to my house a horrendous traffic jam started to reveal itself. There had never been a traffic jam in this spot the whole time I had lived there. Cars were rounding the corner only to hit a dead end of chairs and people on the street. Some of them were trying to turn around, others were trying to park. It was utter chaos. There were dozens of chairs and countless people in between where I was and the entrance to my house. I managed to get my bike parked at a friend's house who lived down the road. Even parking there meant moving some chairs and obnoxiously honking my horn. I know it sounds harsh but the alternative was basically leaving my bike on the street and never seeing it again as it would most likely get stolen. I had to nudge my way through the crowd and hit people with my gate door just to get into my house. As I entered, my roommate was sitting on the couch looking paler than usual. He asked me how I managed to get in and then proceeded to tell me his horrific story of getting home.

Later that night, we found out that it was a funeral for the old man who lived across the street. As it turns out, he was involved with the Indonesian Air Force in some capacity and was a relatively important man. The next day, I didn't even bother trying to get my bike. I simply walked to the road and took a taxi. That night, I once again had to claw and shove in order to get into my own house. 2 days later, the same scenario was still playing out. On returning home from work that night, I had pretty much had enough. The thought of saying something to the people about how "I'm sorry that some old man died but anything more than 5 days of blocking the street, (not to mention the traffic jams being caused on other streets) was pushing their luck" crossed my mind. Fortunately, the street was back to normal when I arrived. The next day, I got my bike from my friend's house and everything went back to normal. The thing that struck me as being the most odd about this whole scenario is that nobody bothered to knock on my door and say "excuse me but we are going to blockade the entrance to your house for the next 5 days or so". Turns out, nobody ever does.

The good thing about that particular funeral is that it makes tents like the one set up on my street today seem to be nothing more than a novelty. The other time when there was a stage in front of my house and people playing very bad and loud music from 10 a.m. until 11 p.m. helped brighten my mindset towards today as well. I can get out of my house and won't have to deal with any old men living out their cop fantasies. I may even go pretend I'm a guest and get a free dinner.

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