Friday, February 5, 2010

Death by Angkot

To get to work or the mall or some other places that I haven't discovered yet, one form oftransportation is an angkot. To catch one, I stand on the side of the road and hail it like a taxi. Then, I climb in the open door and shuffle to the back, bent over at the waist like a 90-year old victim of osteoporosis. When you want to get off, you say "kiri," which means "left," and the driver pulls over. You get out, give him 2,000 or 3,000 rupiah, depending on the length of your ride, and you're done.

Most of them are as beat up as the one in the picture above and the drivers clearly have no grand ideas of preserving any sort of aesthetic. Still, it's an insanely cheap and quick way to get around. Until the other day, I thought it was a relatively safe way as well. But that all changed during my ride to work on Wednesday.

I hailed the angkot as usual. Instead of pulling over to the curb, the driver stopped in the middle of the street and I had to walk out, hoping that a motorbike didn't come racing through and clip me. I climbed in and we were off. Before we'd gone twenty feet, he'd taken a corner so fast I think the thing went up on two wheels. There were two men and one other woman in the back and I looked around at them to see if they were alarmed. They didn't seem to be so I tried to relax. But the driver was accelerating to about 30 mph on a street with heavy, two-lane traffic, while he weaved in and out of the lanes, coming so close to the other cars I was holding my breath. By the time we got to the bumpy part, I was giggling to myself. I'm pretty sure it was a defense mechanism so I didn't pee my pants instead.

The bumpy part is the last stretch of road before we reach the mall. It's about two blocks long and it's bumpy because the angkot drivers always go off road and drive through a concrete parking area that has long since been churned up into rocks and potholes. Usually, the angkot drivers take the bumpy part slowly, so they don't throw their passengers out the open door.

For my driver on this day, it wasn't such a problem. He might have slowed to 25, but he was driving so fast that all four of his passengers were coming up off the benches, in my case almost all the way to the ceiling. The other three got off sooner than my stop but I wasn't about to be alone with a maniac, so I followed them and walked the extra block to work.

I'm still alive, but barely.

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