Tuesday, October 17, 2006
A taxi game
Here's a fun thing to do in Jakarta: Jump into a taxi and ask for our neighborhood, Pejompongan.
The driver will say, "OOOOHhhhh, Pejompongan!" as if his mom lives there, as if the mere thought of the place fills him with joy. He'll drive about ten feet. Then he'll say nonchalantly, almost inaudibly: "Where's Pejompongan?"
Works every time!
Well, actually, maybe fifty percent of the time. Some drivers are really good and know all kinds of shortcuts through tiny back streets. Others are clueless. If you're going someplace you've never been before, it's wise to look up the route beforehand and bring the map. Also, bring small bills if you've got 'em, because the drivers don't carry a lot of change.
I can't really blame the drivers, because Jakarta is a spaghetti of freeways punctuated by hellish cloverleafs. If you leave Plaza Semanggi to go to our apartment, for example, you will often spend what feels like ten minutes circling up, down and around various highway ramps, only to look up and see, through your nausea -- Plaza Semanggi! Only then, having managed the impossible task of changing directions, can you begin the actual journey home.
The local neighborhoods, on the other hand, are mazes of little streets, some growing narrower and narrower until a taxi can't get down them at all.
We had some epic, lost taxi rides at first, with the driver jumping out periodically to ask directions from random passersby. Now that we know our way around, and can give directions, taxis hold no fear -- unless we spend too much time pondering why the driver has a skeleton hanging from his rear view mirror.