As America’s sports pages, particularly those on the East Coast, suddenly turn to horse racing this time of year, there’s an interesting yarn in today’s NY Times about Jakarta’s “jockeys”–people who charge a few shekels to jump into a commuter’s car and help the driver get access to the “3 in 1″ HOV highways.
It is not known if these jockeys, like those in America, stand 4′ 11” and spew out a dialect that’s understood only in the deepest recesses of Cajun culture.
Apparently traffic in the Indonesia capital, whose population is about the same as New York City’s, is–as Barney Stinson might say–legen-dary. According to the Times, the city is facing the prospect of “total traffic”–complete car paralysis–by 2011. Local officials say the problem is made worse by the jockeys, as motorists have to pull over to let them in and let them out.
“I don’t think the 3-in-1 system works because the number of jockeys and cars is increasing at the same time,” said Asep Suherman, 19, who became a jockey at the age of 10, works the morning and evening rush hours, and whiles away the time in between by relaxing at a mosque. “But even if it’s not working, I want them to extend the hours because the system is good for us poor people.”
Mr. Asep stood recently among dozens of women, men, boys and entire families, all lining the entrance to a main thoroughfare here and beckoning passing cars with a slightly raised index finger. The jockeys scattered as a police van made a perfunctory sweep but returned to their spots even before the vehicle’s flashing blue lights disappeared in Jakarta’s twilight.
And so Jakarta moved on, or did so very slowly, in a state of traffic limbo that many have likened to Indonesia itself, or at least its ingenuity in skirting regulations, and the vibrancy of its informal economy.
The jockeys, who are frequently small children, don’t actually look to get into the city center, or out of it, or anywhere else. They’re simply there to make money by filling a seat in the car; they get paid “less than a dollar” per ride. The concept is the exact opposite of a taxi cab–the driver pays you to ride in his car. It is not known if the jockeys are forced to watch WNBC’s “taxicasts” in the back of the car.
Indonesian officials say they’ll make the jockeys obselete with an electronic card system for drivers. They’re cracking down on jockeys by sending them to mop floors and do push-ups (nope, not a joke) at local detention centers.
At the other end of the auto-dependency spectrum, the Times featured a page one story yesterday on a German community getting by without the automobile.