“Sorry I’m going to be late, the traffic is killing me”
If you live in Jakarta, you know that traffic is one of our main problems. We all hate traffic. I was fifteen minutes late to my meeting this morning because I was stuck in Sudirman, on a motorcycle. I came to the meeting with a horrid smell of exhaust and greasy hair. Nobody loves traffic. Including me. It’s a claustrophobic inducing waste of time.
However, living in Jakarta requires me to spend half of my day stuck in traffics. I could be on a motorcycle, on a car, on a bus, on an angkot, or even walking through packed alleys. It’s inevitable. So, there is this small activity that I’ve been doing lately to make traffic less mundane and stressful. At this point, it’s totally predictable that I will say “take photos of the traffic and watch passerby”. Yes, but this time I want to be a little more accurate.
I started to jot down the time and the state of event that’s happening in front of me. There are actually many interesting events that we could capture (literally using camera or just capture in our head) in a traffic. The other day, I was sitting on the back of a motorcycle, stuck in a horrible traffic in Kuningan. There was an angkot next to me with two women sitting inside the angkot. One of them was wearing casual t-shirt and a pair of sandals, and the other one was wearing a full suit. At first, they were busy with themselves and ignoring each other, but after a while (yes, I was stuck in a traffic, not moving, for almost fifteen minutes) they started smiling, and laughing while pointing at each other. I honestly amazed at what I saw. It was probably nothing, but they could be old friends who just recognised each other or maybe they just made friends right there on a public transportation, and I had the chance to witness the process. I even found myself smiling while watching them interacting with one another. It was such an honest and beautiful view in the middle of a stressful rush hour.
There is another story that happened earlier yesterday. I rode a bus, specifically metro mini, to work. I was sitting right behind the driver, my favourite seat since middle school. I was listening to The Cure on my phone, and suddenly the driver started to bop his head (coincidentally) according to the beat of the song. It was such an entertaining view. Before he bopped his head, I was stressed out and regret my choice for taking the bus instead of ojek or walking, but after that happened everything felt refreshed. That day, I also took a short angkot ride back home, and a couple sitting next to me was clearly on their first date. He was asking her whether she had a good time or not, and they looked mushy and nervous as hell. It was a wonderful view. I can’t wait until they meet again! I haven’t even mentioned the occasionally wonderful voice of street performers, or that time where I had a chance to see a chess game for twenty minutes! It was a great game.
Thanks to traffic as well, I finally got to take a picture of the guy with a light blue cart that says “derita hidup membawa nikmat” (loosely translated as life’s suffering brings pleasure). I’ve been watching that guy since last month, and I haven’t had the chance to actually come up and talk to him. Two weeks ago, I was walking down his pavement, but he was nowhere to be found. He went missing for almost three weeks, and now he’s back in his spot! I missed seeing him around, but now I can see him every day again (I don’t want to see him every day though, I want him to have a better life).
Traffic can be enjoyable. Yes, it is extremely stressful and such a pain in the ass, but that way you can actually take your time to breathe and pay attention to your surroundings. Do you know that birds circle around at exactly five in the afternoon? They always fly around with no directions at that time before finally make up their mind and fly in a specific direction at five fifteen or thirty. Or how the sky almost always turns violet just before the sun got eaten by the dawn? Almost every day. You just have to pay an extra attention to the sky. Maybe while waiting for your ride to come, or maybe while you’re on your ride. Just look around while you’re stuck in a traffic. It’s not that bad. As what the guy with the cart always says, life’s suffering (in this case, traffic) brings pleasure.
(PS: I write about my traffic and flânerie experience on Twitter under @hazeofviolet, it’s super boring, but just in case you’re as boring as me, and want to read boring things, give it a go. End of shameless plug.)