Elections are around the corner, and as Indonesia’s president nears the completion of his second term, the race will go to a newcomer, a presidential rookie, an executive greenhorn, a leader wet behind the ears, a—well, you get the picture.
But what interests me more is that, from what I’m told, one of the frontrunners to take his spot is the mayor of Jakarta. That means the governance of this little ole town is up for grabs.
I’d like to take this opportunity to toss my own hat into the ring. That’s right: I want to be mayor of Jakarta. After all, how hard can it be to govern a megacity? It’s not like I need any experience, any technical know-how, nor any sort of time spent in the city—a few months of hanging around here ought to be fine. Heck, I don’t even think it’s necessary for me to speak Indonesian. I mean, I’ve got major some ideas for this place…
And it all starts with banning the Bajaj.
Simply put, it’s is an abomination posing as a nuisance—a three-wheeled Hell-carriage belching countless cubic liters of carbon monoxide into our lungs. Any passerby can’t help but notice the thick, oil-laden smoke billowing out the un-muffled exhaust, can’t help but feel his lungs clogging with the syrupy blue smog.
The pollution is bad enough——but the bedlam of a single three-wheeled bajaj is equal to that of a half-dozen industrial-grade turbines. They scream enough noise pollution in our ears to shame the most obnoxious weed-wacker, the loudest-mouthed helicopter, or the ear-splitting-est ACDC concert played during pre-school nap time. The bajaj ensures a generation of Jakartians is reaching puberty with the hearing range of an eighty-year-old Harley Davidson aficionado.
Just as troubling, these unsightly orange bubbles in traffic make it seem like our city’s highways resemble an endlessly shifting construction zone. They’re a nasty armada of warning-label orange mutations sputtering across streets and sidewalks and generally dragging traffic into a circus, creating mayhem where a slightly-organized free-for-all should occur.
The Bajaj has got to go.
If all that’s not bad enough, dear citizens, you as the voting public also have to consider the cultural impact of this issue. Jakarta, I’m afraid, is not a walker-friendly city. Traffic rips up and down the thoroughfares mere inches from pedestrians’ elbows, making any neighborhood stroll a deafening and dusty and dangerous affair. Toss in kilometer after kilometer of open sewers lining streets, gaping holes plunging down into stinking waste pits, and sidewalks stuffed so full of vendors that foot traffic is forced into busy intersections and—well, you end up with a city full of non-walkers, a sedentary populous dependent on motorized transport, even for very short trips. Quite simply, people don’t walk anywhere because it’s dangerous and unpleasant. The bajaj has cut our feet from under us.
It’s time we strike back; it’s time we stand up to the problem. It’s high time I ban the Bajaj and let my people walk free!
Sorry to get a little dramatic, that’s actually a line I’m trying out for my stump speech for the upcoming election season.
“But—but. . . but what about the workforce,” some will stammer. “Aren’t you cutting hundreds of jobs from a city all too often plagued by poverty?” And they’ll look to their new mayor with eyes pleading for mature and decisive leadership. At which point I’ll stiffen my shoulders and look the camera right in the eye, and pause—and give a little smile, not a smirk, but perfectly sincere—and say in my finest and most trustworthy voice, “Worry not, little ones, not a job will be lost. In fact, Jakarta will gain.”
Gasps of amazement will fill the room. And I will calmly explain:
You see, none of the Bajaj drivers ever has a customer. No one uses them. They sit there useless. Maybe ten years ago people used the Bajaj. Maybe they served a purpose then—back in the days before every single person in the city had a his fleet of motorbikes. Maybe then the Bajaj was vital. But, my friends, understand that that day has passed.
The Bajaj driver of today loafs in his orange little shell of hateful pollution all day, alternately napping and chasing down people exiting malls to harangue them about a ride. The effort from this is apparently exhausting, requiring another four hours’ rest on the curb. At which point the driver may feel spry enough to hop in his little monstrosity, fire up it’s 10cc of ungodly noise, and cruise around the block a dozen times looking for customers. I honestly never see a Bajaj with a passenger.
Wait, that’s not true—I did see one giving a lift just two weeks ago. The passengers were stricken with grief, for their motorbike was broken down and in the shop for repairs. Since walking was out of the question, they negotiated a rate with one of the dozen bajaj drivers hounding them as they stepped out of the grocery store.
What I mean by this, voting constituents, is this: no one is going to be out of work. Trust me on this one. The bajaj does not earn money.
The entire institution is outdated. It pollutes. It clogs curbs and streets and valuable traffic space. It prevents the city from greening up and shackles fine citizens from ever getting anywhere on foot. I challenge anyone to show me a good reason to keep them around.
Here’s my proposal: when I’m mayor, I’m going buy up every Bajaj and sell it for scrap metal. Or, perhaps take the engines out and put them back into yard trimmers. Because—remember all the drivers who are going to be “out of work” due to my ban? Well, the city is going to hire them.
That’s right, they’re going to be on Jakarta’s payroll and have a job that actually requires some effort and some sweat and some industry—these fellows are going to restore the sidewalks. They’re going to be the crews who patch the gaping holes, who cover the open sewers, who kick the vendors off the sidewalk and plant trees and greenery all over the place. These former bajaj pilots are going to pour the concrete and captain the yardwork, dismantle the shacks and raise them again is luxurious hawker centers, plant stately trees and trim them neat and careful. They’re going to be a credit to the city.
But Mr. Mayor, the massed crowds of reporters in the press conference will clamor, how will you pay for all this? Who will fund the Bajaj buy-out and sidewalk restoration? Well, I’ll expound more on that later, but in general, I’m thinking…
- Use the funds from bajaj sales
- double the fare of the toll road
- quadruple the fee for licensing a motorbike
- charge a one-cent tax on every bowl of Bakso sold
- tax the pretentious luxury malls through their upturned noses
- and dip into the tourism revenue that will begin to trickle in from the more user-friendly city
Vote for me, Jakarta—I’ve got ideas in my mind and aces up my sleeve. It’s got to start somewhere, and for me, it’s the bajaj ban that going to kick it all off.
And now picture me staring into the camera and jabbing an authoritative finger at the camera. I’ll growl in my most mayoral growl: Watch out, bajaj, you parasite. Your days of sucking the life out of this city are numbered. I’m getting elected, and I’m gunning for you.