Saturday, October 31, 2009

Nocturnal Emissions

Last week's interesting collection of features in your soaraway Globe focusing on Jakarta's traffic Hades got me in the mood for some serious motoring. I'm actually one of those green and sweaty Bike2Work loons and am usually to be found propelling myself on my trusty 18 speed alloy steed down the Busway lane to my office every morning. It's a journey of a mere 15 minutes and involves a lot of craning my neck around in order to ensure that I’m not squashed as flat as a ‘martabak’ pancake by a runaway TransJakarta behemoth.

More recently however, I've purchased a cheap, secondhand crate in order to cruise around town of an evening (and also to get the hell out of it of a weekend). I don't use the car on weekdays however, and this is not so much for any ostensibly green reasons as the fact that the experience gets me so pent-up that I almost end up slitting my wrists in order to lower my blood pressure. I've also, in some of my darker traffic jam moments here, considered pulling over to the side of the road and opening all of my car windows. A few deep breaths and I'd no doubt find myself farming harps before 10 minutes were up.

However, all of this urban anomie hasn't yet deterred me from the night-time pleasures of my vintage wheels and so I thought that I'd try and get hold of a compulsory emissions test sticker for the old girl. All vehicles in town are apparently required to display such a sticker by the end of this year. However, my expectations of actually being able to get hold of one of these elusive clean bills of automotive health were not high. Braver men than me have already tried and failed, if the newspaper reports are to be believed.

According to one story I read, citywide, a mere 17 garages have ordered a massive total of 3000 such emissions stickers to date, making the things as rare as hen's teeth. As per usual, where the city administration is concerned, it seems that the wheel is still spinning but the hamster has long since died. Determined to be upbeat though, I set off in order to check out the sticker situation down on the streets. After all, my office in Mampang is surrounded by literally dozens of garages, surely one would be able to give my exhaust pipe damn good fondling.

In the event however, my local mechanics proved to be about as helpful as a windscreen wiper on a cow's backside. Of the six garages I tried (including an official Honda Astra service centre) none had got the stickers. One of them did have an emissions testing machine (although no stickers) in fact, however the appliance in question appeared to be even older than my car. In the event, several hefty wallops from the grease monkey in charge couldn't really get the thing working properly. And so I remain sadly sticker-less.

Maybe I can get some carbon credits to offset my motor’s nocturnal emissions. You know, pay some Javanese farmers to plant a few more corn cobs than normal or something. Of course, if the city's vehicles emissions regulation was strictly enforced, then the only buses left on the road would be on the Busway itself, which possibly wouldn't be of tremendous help to the commuting public in the short term.

I refused to be disconsolate however and was determined to bag some kind of motoring story. I therefore went in search of one of those car jockeys that render the city's three-in-one car policy, currently enforced during rush hours on Jakarta’s main thoroughfares, completely toothless. And so it transpired that I picked up a mother and her child at the bottom end of Jl. Sudirman and we zoomed off northwards like a snail on Largactil.

My jockey told me that she could make up to five trips per day with the child, although she had to dodge both public order officials and other gangs of car jockeys who can sometimes turn nasty. Alas, she also told me that her husband had left her. I didn't offer to marry her and adopt the boy I'm ashamed to say although, in my defense, she did have the kind of dental work that convinced me she could eat a watermelon through a picket fence.

I ended up paying her Rp.20,000 at the other end of the line (I’m a soft touch) and dropped the pair of them off on Jl. Wahid Hasyim. I then parked up and went for a beer...erm...I mean a Coke.

And so the three-in-one farce continues. Apparently the government wants to introduce a more effective ERP (electronic road pricing) system like they have in Singapore. Alas however, according to this very newspaper, a "Disagreement about whether the Jakarta Government or the Ministry of Finance would collect the fees has helped halt implementation". Ho ho! Yes, I'll bet it has. Perhaps it's just as well that the money goes to the jockeys instead. Several cokes later I drove home alone. Sad really.