May 6, 2012

The Odd Jobs

Photo by: Shine On

I saw you standing across the street. In the cold November rain. You starred at me with mounting expectations, forcing my heart to race. I was trembling in cold, desperately needed something to get out of this rain. I gazed back at you, hoping that you could grasp my wanting, my needing. As if able to read my mind, you run crossing the two way street, ignoring the possibility of getting hit by the traffic. Gasping for breath, you were walking closer to where I stood. I could see water dripping from the tip of your hair while your strong hand firmly gripped a dark umbrella. Your eyes looked at me deeply, before you finally broke your voice… “Mmm… ojek payung, bu?” :) 

Yes, ojek payung is a unique job you can probably only find in this country. They’re usually men or boys who rent an umbrella during rain, which comes in handy when we’re trapped in a rain and need to walk somewhere close, for example from a building to our car in the car park. They make sure that we’re securely covered under an umbrella while they are following us obediently from behind. Sometimes they jeopardize their own health by letting themselves soaking wet. 

Ojek payung is only one among many other informal jobs that are often looked in condescending way. But like it or not, we need them occasionally. Some of the other odd jobs I frequently encounter are:

Mister Cepek 

They regulate the traffic in the places not covered by traffic police officers. Usually in crowded spots like three junctions. The term mister cepek comes from the fact that the passer by usually give them 100 rupiahs, or cepek, though the fare is higher now, around 500 to 1000 rupiahs. Talking about Mister Cepek, we have the most famous, notorious, Mister cepek in our area. His name is Pak Aro. He passed away last week, leaving the three junction spot unattended and chaotik. We missed him. My 500 rupiah coins miss him. 

Joki Three-in-One 

Three-in-one is a traffic rule applied in some main roads in Jakarta where each car is required to have at least three passengers including the driver to pass the area during busy hour. Joki three-in-one are hitchhikers who can be hired to fulfill the number of passengers. So they are actually there to help people breaking the rule. Isn’t that ironic? 

But I remember one irritating yet amusing experience considering three-in-one area. There was one time when I had to attend a seminar at Sari Pan Pacific Hotel in Jalan Thamrin, Jakarta. Because I came with the driver only, and we decided to be good citizens by following the rule and not picking up any joki on the street, we had to go round and round avoiding three-in-one area to get to the place. And since it seemed impossible to cross the three-in-one boundary, finally the driver parked the car in a building in Jalan Medan Merdeka Selatan and I had to continue my trip to Sari Pan Pacific Hotel by ojek (motor bike taxi). So no matter how cynical we are toward joki three-in-one, I think some people might need them for once in a while. 


Pengamen, or street singer is often seen as annoying. And they are annoying indeed, especially when I remember this situation: I was sitting in a full packed bus at 1 pm under hot weather, the aroma in the vehicle is a mixture of sweat, fuel, and slipping clutch. There, in that unfortunate situation, entered a pack of street singers into the bus, singing an absurd song with absurdly loud voice, playing the guitar out of tones and tapping the home made drum out of the rhythm. It was annoying as hell I almost decided to jump from the bus window! 

But I have also encountered some occasions when I felt really entertained by pengamen. Especially if the song and voice suit the mood. I remember one time when I weep (I was a truly sentimental freak) while listening to a pengamen singing Achmad Dhani’s song titled Cinta Kau dan Dia (Loving You and Him) with beautiful guitar play. Gosh, how could he know that the song perfectly suited my situation at that moment? :) I also remember that a friend of mine intentionally skipped her bus stop and decided to stay in the bus till a song was over because the pengamen sang her favourite song so damn well that even Simon Cowell from American Idol would clap his hands and make a compliment (in your dream). 


Pemulung are people who collect the recyclable garbage, sorting them out, and selling the garbage to the recycle company. Most of them do the job for their own sake, without realizing that they have actually made a great contribution to save the environment. The condescending view toward this job usually comes from the ragged clothes these people wear and their dirty appearance. Of course, what do you expect people wear when they have to shove themselves through the heaps of garbage. An expensive suit with matching tie? :)

They are just some unique people with unique way of life. We can hardly question people’s decision to struggle to live, especially if they are left with not so many choices for jobs. If anything, they teach me to be grateful for the job I am currently having.

1 comment:

  1. Very instructive ( to ignorants like myself). I try to memorize the concepts. I experienced the benefits of some of those jobs without knowing the names. Though I missed the ojek payug when I needed him most( and almost drowned in the heavy down pour :))

    Officially Indonesia's GPD is almost $ 850 million. I wonder how much should be added for it's huge informal economy.