Here Thar Be Monsters!

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27.10.11

Traffic As Metaphor

This morning was a classic Jakarta moment.

Indonesians, for all their laid-back, chilled out politeness, don't like to stop for anything.  The whole goal of driving in here is to go from point A to point B without stopping, even if you have to go ten miles out of your way.  As a consequence, if traffic slows down too much, they start jumping into the next lane, even if the other lane is on-coming traffic.

Now, to get out of my neighborhood in the general direction of my office, one has to cross a two-lane bridge.  It's the only one for a mile in any direction, and all 43 1/3 billion people in the 'hood have to cross it to get out.

So, this morning, one of the Kopaja buses decided the outbound lane wasn't moving fast enough for him.  Naturally, he jumped into the oncoming lane, because Gosh!  There's no cars coming on THIS side.  He raced along until, in the dead center of the bridge, he discovered the oncoming traffic.  No accidents, mind you, just the Indonesian version of a Mexican stand-off.  Since everyone and their mother followed the bus, he couldn't back up.  What with the OTHER half of humanity sitting in front of him, he couldn't go forward.  And, since all the motorcycles here make it a hobby to weave in and out of traffic to get to the front of things, there was a HUGE knot of motorcycles packed literally tire to tire.

Meanwhile, all the cars trying to prevent anyone from jumping in front of them, had wedged nose to tail with each other.  It was almost to the point where you could walk on heads to get across.  There was barely an inch to move and no one was giving an inch, at the risk of losing a centimeter of advancement.  You know those finger puzzles with 15 numbers and 16 spaces, and you have to maneuver them around to try to put them in order?  That was the scene at the bridge.

My driver, being rather aggressive, even by Jakarta standards, had got us so thoroughly jammed in the center of this mess that I was literally rubbing knees with the bikers around me.  And as I sat there, huffing copious amounts of diesel, gas and kerosine fumes, it occured to me that this was a perfect metaphor for the global economic situation.

Like Violet in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the banksters wanted all their profit, and they wanted it NOW!  In their supreme impatience, they jumped into the on-coming lane (derivatives) until they met up with opposing traffic (limited growth).  Suddenly, there was a massive jam up.  The motorcycles (day traders) weaved and bobbed until they were all piled up at the head of the line.  All the mutual funders and pensioners (cars) were lined up nose to tail to get their inch or two.  Now there's no way out without backing up, and we can't back up because all the 'me-toos' have piled in behind.

I must have looked rather ridiculous, since I was the only white boy in a sea of stressed out brown faces, and I was laughing my ass off.  I just couldn't help myself.  I was cracking knee caps in a mini version of a global problem.

Here we sit, in a global traffic jam, huffing fumes, grinding our teeth.  No one will give an inch lest they lose their place at the trough.  Can't go back, can't go forward.  The absurdity of it all.  And all because the banksters didn't want to lose even a fraction of a cent of profit.  Greedy little bastards.  JK Rowling was right to make them ugly liitle goblins with long, spindly fingers and specks of drool at the corners of their mouths.  Even the nice duds can't make them look like anythng but goblins.

Of course, the 71 3/7 quintillion people on the bridge this morning finally figured it out, but not without severe damage to my knee caps and a mystery scratch on my ankle.  So will the world figure it all out, eventually.  But someone's got to give and others will get hurt.  It's the unavoidable consequence of allowing the bankster buses to jump out of line and race up the hill.

All that driver wanted to do was pass the other buses and get to the waiting passengers up ahead.  His greed caused the entire mess and the waiting folks probably gave up and got a ride elsewhere.  Typical bankster.  If only he had stayed in line like the rest of us, he could have gotten the passengers anyway.  The bus ahead of him was already full.

I probably lost 4 years of my life huffing all those fumes, even with my handy dandy face mask on, all thanks to the greedy bankster.  I'd likely still be walking straight, as well.  Now I've got rotted out lungs and busted up knee caps because that greedy bastard couldn't wait like everyone else.

It was such a perfect image.  I was laughing so hard I nearly fell off the motorcycle when my driver lurched forward to prevent someone else from getting that inch in front of us.

It's amazing what you can learn while sitting in a colossal traffic jam, the likes of which the world has never seen.

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