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It's Definitely Not My Fault!

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The First Accident: One morning, a few years ago, I was driving my small red Suzuki up to Merapi Mountain. Merapi is a volcanic mountain located just north of Yogyakarta in Central Java. My father has a Shiitake mushroom farm at the foot of the mountain. And, lucky me was working for him as low paid labour with excessive hours (I had to repay the money he had spent raising me since I was a babe through my pampered adolescent life in Europe – and that involved a lot of work!). Listening to the car stereo, wearing my work clothes, which was not much – only a pair of boots, short jeans and a skimpy top, I felt relaxed and rejuvenated by the fresh mountain air and the morning sun.

The deep, lush tropical forest started to appear on the side of the road, what a wonderful day – until I realised that I was not driving at my usual brisk speed. What was wrong? Well, I was driving on a narrow road with not enough space to manoeuvre, and there was a guy on a motorcycle driving at a snail’s pace in front of me. I honked the horn and waited, but he didn’t show any attempt to move his motorcycle. I honked the horn again and again, but he didn’t budge. So, with a devilish grin on my face, I sped up and my bumper hit his motorcycle from the back and he fell down. I stopped, got out of my car and started yelling at him.

I’m not really proud of what I did – but jeeze you should have seen his reaction. There he was, standing up (I made sure not to cause any ‘major’ physical injury when I hit him) and quickly assessing the damage to his motorcycle (his back lamp was broken, not that it had been working anyway). He looked at me and was ready to pump up his chest to be aggressive toward me while I was already yelling at him. Poor guy, he was really dumbfounded. And so were the usual local ‘crowds’ that surrounded him and who were ready with their machetes to execute me, ‘the car owner’. I gave the motorcyclist some money to fix his lamp after I threatened to take him to a local police office because of his deliberate act of disturbing the traffic, then I left.

The Second Accident: On another ill-fated day I was driving my brother’s car. The road was empty. I was driving carefully in the correct lane; my speed was under 30 km/hour, when suddenly I saw two motorcycles driving toward me. The driver of one of the motorcycles was so busy chatting with his friend that he drove straight into me landing on the hood of my car. Some onlookers on the side of the street, whose attention was actually more focused on my cleavage than what had happened, rushed to the side of my car, slammed the hood and yelled at me: “Stop! Don’t you dare to run away from this, you *#@^!” I was speechless. Here I was, hit by a motorcycle and then victimised by angry crowds. Where’s the logic?

The Third Accident: I remember my father telling me that he had given some money to a motorcyclist after he had hit my father’s car, without my father being at fault. My father said: “Well, I know it wasn’t my fault. But he was a poor man; his motorcycle was broken after the accident. I obviously had more money than him, so I gave him some money to fix his motorcycle.” No wonder my father never got rich.

The Fourth Accident (the last one, I promise): My little brother recently was finally able to buy a car – his first car. Last Idul Fitri, he drove his new car from Jakarta to Yogyakarta. It was his first ‘pulang kampung’ experience in his own car. He was very proud of it; consequently he drove his car very carefully. Somewhere between Cilacap and the Central Java border, there was a sharp curve to the left, around a huge coral mountain. My brother turned his car carefully around the bend when suddenly a middle-aged couple on a motorcycle decided to overtake him on the left. There was not enough space between the car and the rocky mountain. So, the motorcycle hit the car and they fell down. My brother stopped the car, got out, helped the couple up and took them to the nearest hospital. The couple only suffered minor cuts and bruises, still my brother waited for them in the hospital, to make sure that they were okay. Such a good lad my brother is. But apparently, later on this couple asked my brother for a lot of money for various ridiculous reasons.

“Look, I’m not a rich man. I just started my job; I don’t have a lot of money. And again, it wasn’t actually my fault that you two fell off your motorcycle, was it? On top of that, I have been responsible enough to take you two to a hospital and pay for the medical care,” my brother said.

“Well Mister, we were not the one who drove the car. So obviously it was your fault and obviously you have more money than we do, so consequently you have to pay us for this. And, regarding you taking us to this hospital, well it was your obligation to do so anyway!” the wife replied. My brother couldn’t stand it anymore; he stuffed another fifty thousand rupiah bill in her hand and walked away.

I remember an argument I had with a ‘bajaj’ driver a couple of months back (sorry for one more accident story – I’m really full of them). The ‘bajaj’ was speeding on a blind curve and hit my car, which was parked in a safe parking space, and damaged both the bumper and the back lights on my car. I, of course, blamed the reckless driver and asked him to be responsible to a degree (thankfully my car was fully insured – I just wanted to teach the ‘bajaj’ driver a lesson). The ‘Bajaj’ driver replied with the typical proud litany, basically saying he was poorer than I was. Although he admitted that he was wrong to be half asleep while driving on a public road; he shouldn’t have been asked to be financially responsible for the accident because I was richer than him so I was supposed to fix my car with my own money. Somebody had rattled my cage.

So I shouted at him, “Who gave you the right to drive recklessly just because you are poor? You expect you can get away with your acts of irresponsibility just because you are poor? Do you think I was born rich? Do you think my car just fell out of a tree? Do you think I didn’t work for it? Do you think that only people who have money are supposed to be responsible for their acts?”

All of these stories are pointing to one bit of advice: make sure that your car is fully insured! No, just kidding. It seems that the culmination of limited education, distorted social norms and some unknown missing links have developed an irresponsible attitude within the less fortunate members of our society – at least to a degree in traffic. I’m not saying that all the fortunate ones have been responsible for all of their acts either – to a degree.

So now you know what might happen if a ‘smaller’ traffic user accidentally, or intentionally, scratches your 7 series Beemer. Your compensation may be that YOU get to pay. But, if you’re not an Indonesian, please don’t employ my method in the first accident, especially if you don’t have a local with you. It will only invite friction amongst the crowds who usually revert to a pack mentality that only intensifies against so-called ‘rich’ foreigners. Besides, only Indonesians have the right to be arbitrary in their own country. Correct me if I’m wrong.

Housing and schooling information for expats in Indonesia expatriate website for Indonesia Indonesian language translation of article

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