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February 22, 2017 | The crossroads facilitator

A constant theme wherever we go on our tours is: what’s the driving like? It is amazing that wherever we go, the locals think their traffic is the worst. It was the same story in Indonesia. OK, on my travels I can’t use the driving standards common in Switzerland as a benchmark, but you can accept that a certain regional individuality is also reflected in driving behaviour.

But what have been our experiences to date? The list is long. In my opinion, the most dangerous country to drive in is Italy, especially Milan or Rome, where you have to be prepared for anything, cars, bicycles, trucks coming at you unexpectedly from the front, rear, right, left and perhaps even from above. It’s all very different in Indonesia. The typical Indonesian driver puts on his indicators, regardless of whether he intends to turn or change lane! All very predictable behaviour. There are few traffic policemen on duty, at major crossroads in the cities there are traffic lights, which most people obey.

At intersections without traffic lights it is usually a civilian controlling the traffic. From now on, I am going to baptise him the crossroads facilitator, a kindly person who will hold back the unceasing flow of traffic, and, at a signal from this crossroads facilitator, cars will be able to turn. He helps everyone, whether two-wheeler or car, anyone who wishes to turn will be helped. For this he receives, from the grateful driver, a modest gratuity, usually between 500 and 2000 IDR, depending the importance of the intersection. This friendly individual is also an expert on giving directions. So the intersections seem to be in very capable hands. Somewhere there is probably some master plan showing who is entitled to control the traffic, when, and where, and who earns his keep helping drivers extricate themselves from the flow of traffic. Younger people are nowhere to be seen. Potential crossroads facilitators must first earn their crust on straight stretches of road warning of potholes. The rewards here are meagre and the work monotonous. Other than signalling with the hand to slow down whilst rattling a bucket of loose change, the work is unrewarding. It’s a long, long road from pothole indicator to crossroads facilitator.