Friday, July 15, 2011

Eat A Bowl of Shit

Yesterday, after doing some vigorous cleaning around the house, I decided that I would go for a well deserved massage. A friend had recently recommended a new place that is pretty close to my house. I got on my motorbike and made my way to the massage place, which is less than 5 minutes away from my house, or so I thought. My ride turned into an absolute nightmare that resulted in me having to eat the biggest bowl of shit ever. Here is how it unfolded....

I was driving through a complex that is a pretty slow and casual place to be driving. I go through this area regularly, almost on a daily basis. As I was coming up to a left turn (bear in mind that you drive on the LEFT in Indonesia) a bike coming in the opposite direction came flying around the corner driving not on the left but the right side of the road. To put this in perspective, this driver was making a RIGHT turn while driving on the RIGHT side of the road. Try to visualize this if you can, it is pretty much the most reckless and ridiculous thing one can do. In a panic, as the bike was about to hit me, I honked my horn. As he swerved around me, I kind of threw my hands in the air as to say (without actually speaking, this is important) "what in the world are you thinking?"

That was the end of that, or so I thought. I continued down the road and the driver of the other bike turned around and pulled up next to me and started asking what my problem was. I replied that I had no problem only that he should consider driving on the LEFT side of the road. He demanded I pull over, this seemed ridiculous to me so I kept on going. As we hit the end of the street, he veered left and I continued right. He started screaming, turned around again, pulled up beside me and started demanding that we go to the police office. I kind of laughed and just kept driving. He then jackknifed his bike in front of mine, forcing me to stop. This road is relatively slow one that is filled with houses on both sides. I expected a crowd to form immediately, it didn`t.

The man was somewhat older and extremely enraged. The whole conversation took place in Bahasa Indonesia but I will write in English only to save time.

Him: "You verbally insulted me, why did you do that"

Me: "I honked my horn so you wouldn't hit me when you were coming around the corner, there was no verbal insult."

Him: "I didn't hit you so what is your problem, why did you insult me? What country are you from?"

Me: "What does it matter what country I'm from? The only reason you didn't hit me was because I honked my horn, how is that an insult?"

Him: "I'm 50 years old, you can't speak to me like that!!"

Me: "Does that give you the right to drive on the WRONG side of the road????"

Him: "I demand we go to the police station, come with me to the police station now!!!"

Me: "You want to go to the police station, seriously? What are you going to tell them, that you were recklessly driving on the WRONG side of the road and almost caused an accident?"


Me: "No, I'm not going to the police station, I didn't insult you but I will apologize if that's what you want."

Him: "Do you know who I am? police station now!!!"

He then proceeded to reach over and grab my keys out of my ignition. I grabbed his wrist and twisted and pulled his hand as hard as I could until he dropped my keys. I pulled him so hard that he kind of fell over onto my bike and knocked it over. Usually when there is any kind of incident like this in Indonesia, a crowd forms instantly. I wanted this to happen so that I could get out of this situation as this man seemed to be absolutely insane. As he fell over onto my bike, I grabbed my keys and told him to back off. At this point, no crowd had formed yet. I started thinking that he was going to come at me again and that I was going to have to fight my way out of this situation. I haven't been in a fight or even so much as thrown a punch at anybody in the last 25 years but, if he was going to come at me again, I felt I would have no choice but to hit him.

A minute later, a group of men came over to see what all the fuss was about. I was extremely relieved as I did not want to have a physical altercation. Alright, I thought, they'll sort this situation out and tell this guy to get lost and leave me alone. One of the guys was the head security guy for the housing complex. These guys are usually the local complex "police" and nobody dares to mess with them. I started telling the security guy how he chased me and tried to take my keys. They asked that we go over to their booth 100 meters away. I agreed and went over there. I continued to tell my story to the security guy while the guy from the other bike kept shouting "Police station NOW, you are insulting!" I started to notice the body language of the security guy and his friends. They were a little afraid of this man from the bike and wouldn't tell him to stop shouting or to leave me alone.

Eventually, the security guy convinced me to come speak with him in a little food stall behind his booth.

Security: "I believe everything you say and that you did not insult him but only honked your horn but you need to understand that this man belongs to an important organization and has very powerful friends. We have no choice but to do what he says or I will have big problems."

Me: "Sir, I don't want to go to the police station, they will just make me pay money or try to take my bike away. I did NOT insult this man, this whole situation is ridiculous to me, I just want to go home."

Security: "The only way to make him happy is to give him money, I don't like this man very much but I have no choice but to do what he says or I will be in big trouble, sorry sir."

Me: "So he drives like a maniac and then chases me and tries to take my keys and I have to give him money? This does not seem very fair to me, especially since I didn't do anything wrong."

Security: "I agree with you, sir but your choices are to either give him some money or call the police and have them come here." (I knew right then and there that I would probably be forced to give the police even more money, not to mention that they were probably friends of this other guy)

Me: "OK fine, how much should I give him? is 100 thousand ($9) enough?" (By the way the driver was dressed, I could tell that he had money, he did not care about the amount of money but merely wanted to show me how important he was and rub my face in it)

Security "Sir, that should be OK, people only give me 25 thousand ($2.75) when I ask for money, let me go talk to him, wait here`

Security `Sorry sir but he says that you must give another 50 thousand ($4.50) or we have to call the police`

Me: `That`s not fair, sir but I will pay it` (paying the police off would have cost me a LOT more)

Security: `Sir, he has agreed not to call the police, you can go now. I`m sorry, sir, please don`t think we are bad people who hate westerners `

Me: `OK, thank you sir, I don`t think that way, I only think that other man is crazy`

Security: `Me too, sir`

I then went outside and the other driver who was previously in a rage had completely calmed down. I said nothing to him as I walked back to my bike. He mentioned something about learning some manners. Knowing when I am defeated, I gave him an evil scowl, got on my bike and went to the massage place.

After having time to reflect on this situation, the bad taste in my mouth still lingers. I don`t feel that I did anything wrong and, even had I insulted this man, did not deserve to be treated this way. This was a reminder for me of how corrupt and ridiculous a country this is and how some `elite`people can do whatever they want whenever they want. It was absolutely shocking to see the security guy cower in front of this so called important man. They are usually pretty much at the top of the food chain and are feared by most.

I would like to point out that this is one of the worst incidences I have ever been involved with and that the vast majority of Indonesian people here, even rich corrupt ones, usually treat others with respect and deal with things in a civilized manner.

I have been daydreaming and hoping that by some strange twist of fate this man one day needs something from me. I would make him publicly kiss my hand and admit that he is evil and corrupt. Doubt that will ever happen but one can always dream.


  1. In the land of the lawless the thug is king.

  2. Ugh. It's so frustrating when that stuff happens. I was in a taxi in Jakarta once and the taxi driver was driving silly and drove into a motorcyclist. The taxi driver and the motorcyclist then both tried to extort/bully money out of me, even though I was just a passenger in the taxi. I ended up storming off down the middle of Jl Thamrin, marching through the traffic screaming cursewords at them. I was concussed, so I was probably the crazy one in the situation, but they really tried to threaten me, locked the taxi doors etc. I got pretty terrible whiplash from the accident and was in physio for months, so I ended up paying anyway, just to healthcare providers.... I was the only one hurt in the incident because the taxi didn't have seatbelts in the back and I was thrown around when the driver hit the brakes... he only bumped over the motorcyclist.

  3. Yep, it's crazy how corruption works. But $13.5 isn't too bad considering the alternatives. My dumbass probably would've tried to fight him and would up being assassinatied by some mafia or something.

  4. Wonderful story. Appalling behaviour from the other guy who's sense of sheer, elitist entitlement has obviously overpowered any courtesy or humanity.

  5. Sadly this sort of nonsense is common. It's not only in the Big Durian.
    Equally sadly, the silly shits are never driving properly.
    But a Bule will never win an argument on the roads. It's just part of the price of living in Indonesia.

  6. Thx everyone for the comments, I`m glad that people can actually empathize with my situation.

  7. As Indonesian citizen, i must say that i feel sorry for what happened to you.
    This thing is very ridiculous but sadly also VERY true. I just hoped that it'll never happened to you again

  8. You totally got ripped off. Ah, shit happens... especially in Jakarta.