Drive Bebe, Drive : Parking

Now that I’ve conquered my fear of driving, well at least within the South Jakarta area to run errands and what not, the next thing to re-learn is how to park. It is very tempting to quote Cher from Clueless, “What’s the point, everywhere in LA has valet!” or something to that effect anyway. But see, valet parking here in Jakarta is too expensive and Babeh thinks it’s a total rip-off. Plus not everywhere you go has valet. Obviously.

Back in LA, parking was not a big deal. Well yes, I couldn’t really parallel park but it is rare that I need to do that. My driving instructor back in Visalia taught me how to park and it served me well over there. Her magic mantra: start turning 2 cars before the spot and it should be fine. It really does work in Los Angeles and some parts on New Jersey that I got to drive. But back home is another story.

Parking heaven…

If you think driving here is crazy, try parking. Absolutely insane! I always need direction from the parking attendant to park. I’m so freaking paranoid I’ll graze another car going in and out, makes me wish the car can park on its own. It took me ages to figure out why the hell do I have such a hard time to park when it was relatively easy breezy over there? Granted I was not the best parker, but certainly was not the worst. Don’t need an attendant there. Then it dawned on me, or rather, my wise Mom pointed out the very obvious thing that I missed, California has AMPLE parking land (and in bits of New Jersey that I was lucky enough to park my cousin’s car). They gave such wide spaces that one does not need a parking attendant to point out when to go left or right. Oh bliss. No need to be afraid of bruising anyone’s vehicle. (Well, if you’re not paying attention, you could but don’t tell that car I dinged it 😉

We’re all very good at parking backward… Except moi

Here, land is at premium that they give just the minimally required space to somewhat safely park the cars. To compound the problem, people here like to park backwards and I’ve never been taught to do that. I can only park going forward. I mean, I can sorta attempted to park backwards myself but only and only if there’s enough space in between, like if there’s 3 adjoining empty spots then yeah I’ll do it. Oh and then, to maximise land use, they’ll double park it by allowing other cars parallel park in front. Between the personal drivers and the attendant somehow they’ve got it all down to a T.

It used to annoy me that I need to use the service of the parking attendants. But having had to deal with parking in crowded spaces, well…  I’ve made peace with myself. I acknowledge the fact that I do require their help so there. They would happily help too knowing there’s a tip in the end. Actually at certain places I now look for an attendant to help me. When there’s none, sometimes one of the personal driver would take their place. A bit of diversion while they’re waiting for their masters to finish their shopping, or business, or whatever.

Or I just try to find an emptier space. That works too 😉


Drive Bebe, Drive part 2

Pleasant, is not a word one would use to describe Jakarta‘s traffic. Horrid is more like it. The roads are not exactly wide, there are way too many private vehicles and not enough public transportation to alleviate the traffic. To makes matters worse, there are literally tens of thousands of motorcyclist crowding the streets at every hour of everyday. Not exactly something that would entice anyone to drive and join in the throngs. So I don’t. I was quite content to use taxis and drivers to get me from point A to point B. Until I have children.

One can't take pictures like this if behind the wheel 🙂

Actually I didn’t immediately start driving as soon as I have kids, (for a history of my driving read here) I started driving after we move house and Babeh got a new city car for us. We moved a bit further back to the suburbs, in fact our house is right on the city border between Jakarta and Cirendeu; just cross the bridge and I’m in another province altogether. As such, Babeh thinks it is high time we got another car just to complete the white picket fence type family with 3 cats instead of dogs.

I was still quite reluctant since we have a driver, but the longer distance between our house and Babeh’s office plus his busier schedule, force me to drive myself and the kids around. Since we just love the traffic, we manage to carve our kids lives as close to home as possible so all their schools and extra curricular are still within the 10-15 minutes driving from home. But there is this one place that’s about 45 minutes away. Now, the furthest I drive was to our local mall, about 20-30 minutes away.  This place is a little bit beyond the mall.  On this particular day, Babeh needs the car and it is silly to use taxi when there’s a perfectly good city car sitting on the driveway. So I packed the kids, say a little prayer, and off we go.

To say I was nervous was understatement. White knuckles gripping the steering wheel tight. Then something happened. I passed the mall, wait for the light to turns green, and turns to the adjoining street leaving the Pondok Indah area, entering Radio Dalam. As I was driving the somewhat long stretch of road something clicks. There’s really nothing to driving, just a matter of confidence and familiarity and I was pretty familiar with the area. I spend over half of my live living in South Jakarta in particular the Blok-M – Lebak Bulus area, so it’s not like I’m venturing into a brave new world. It’s an old world I pass everyday just now with me behind the wheels.

Just like that, my fear of driving dissipates. I can not let my fear of Jakarta’s traffic rule over me. My children need me. I need to be able to step up when needed. My parents did not raise me to be a dependent person, they raise me to be independent. Driving is one way to prove it. Interesting how I need my children to points that out to me, around 9 years after I moved back home to Jakarta. It’s amazing how proud my kids can get when I pick them from school myself.

But as they say, better late than never 🙂 Although the furthest I got so far is to my work place – still within South Jakarta – it is good enough for now. So thank you kids, for trusting and believing that your mommy can! Love you lots!!!

Driving Miss Dessy

Dessy is one of my dearest friend and a big supporter of me driving. She always ‘preached’ the virtue of being able to drive in this city “Think about it, you’ll be independent, not depending on anyone. If there’s emergency you can take the kids to the ER in no time instead of having to wait for the taxi, etc etc… ” Which are all very true and I totally agree with her. But, have you seen the traffic here in Jakarta?  The Santa Monica freeway jam is nothing compare to the daily goings over here. Massive jams, crazy motorist, innocents buses who thinks they’re so small and slight they can just swerve in and out of lanes like an Olympic ice skater.

In theory I really like the idea of driving. In practice… well it depends. Back in LA it was loads of fun. I even get to drive to San Fransisco on my own! I really did! I also went to San Diego and Visalia; I have a cousin in the former and my roommate came from the latter.  Oh and I also drive to Disney and spend a fabulous birthday there too!

So when the registration for the car finally over, got the license plate, etc, Dessy was the first one to show up at my house and demanded to be driven by me. She has lots of guts! Besides my family, everyone else were giving me polite smiles while thinking up excuses how to escape being my tutor. But not ms Dessy, she practice what she preached. Yay for her! And I am very grateful for that.

Ms Dessy wasn’t a native of Jakarta like I am, so this city is new to her too. Yet she managed to ‘conquer’ the streets and happily zipping through it everyday in her nifty little compact. She taught me tricks of driving in little lanes, “Remember, the other car doesn’t want to get hit by you so they will adjust.” Or, “The roads are crap over here so it’s better to go a bit to the right rather than the left. You don’t want to hit the pedestrians.” And finally, “Motorist are annoying. Just get used to it.” But it’s true tho. She told me about her early days of driving, how once she was minding her own business, queueing for the green light when suddenly her car was hit by idiotic motor cyclist and all sorts of tales from the road.

I’m still not as brave as her. I have yet to drive beyond my immediate neighbourhood. Heck I haven’t even been able to go to my second home aka the local mall, on my own. But thanks to her encouragement,  I can go to my weekly Quran study classes on my own. I’m also able to drop and pick my children from school now. Uh, correction, I can go to my daughter’s school. I still need to work up the courage to go to my son’s kindergarten. The streets are narrower there.  But anyway, now that school is out, the streets are somewhat emptier so the next few weeks are good time for me to practice driving some more. My target is to be able to go to the mall, my parents and siblings house, plus the hospital and the Pediatric clinic all on my own. And to ms Dessy’s house too of course. As usual, wish me luck!

Thank you ms Dessy, I hope you’re not afraid to ride with me in the driver’s seat. Here’s to going to your house at some point this July 😉

Drive bebe, drive.

Like many teens, I waited feverishly for the day when I would be allowed to sit behind some wheels, i.e. drive. As luck would have it, by the time I was 18, which was the legal age to drive here in Indonesia, I was studying in the UK. In my university city I live on campus for the whole 3 years I was there so of course my dad, wise and sane man that he is, did not see the point in allowing me my own car. Not to mention one has to go through a very rigorous test to be able to drive in the UK.

Well then, what about summer? Yes, I went back home during summer holidays. The first thing I do is to enroll in a driving school learning how to drive manually. So I go through learning how to shift gears and learn to park. Not sure if I master parallel parking though. Then I took the test, passed with flying colours and start driving. At that time what’s available  was this huge family sedan. It looked huge to my 18 yr old self. I didn’t crash into anything. Thank God. But I did got a ticket. How the hell am I supposed to see the sign since it was obscured by tree leaves? Regardless it left a bitter taste and I was only too happy to let my sister drive me around and took taxis for the rest of the holiday.

Fast forward a couple of years, I suddenly find myself living in California. To prepare for living in Lala Land, a driving license is a must. Luckily this time my friend’s home town was Visalia, CA. I learn to drive automatic this time. Took my test in Tulare, again I passed with flying colour in both theoretical and practical test. One piece of advice I got from Jen, when it doubt, go to the truck’s lane. They won’t go very fast. Was very nervous the very first time I drive on a highway. I prayed the whole way from Visalia to Burbank. Managed to got into our rental home in one piece. Thank gawd.

In LA, there’s no way around it. I had to drive around. To get to work, to play, etc. So every morning I brace myself to strap on my safety belt, turn on the ignition and off I go. But you know what, after a while I became comfortable. Yes I get lost every now and then but thanks to google maps direction and that ever-present LA maps plus and AAA card I zip here and there like I was born with wheels. My biggest achievement was when I go to San Diego to visit my cousin and to SF for fun. I drive there alone and I make it back, again in one piece. One  literal dent in the whole experience was when I was hit by a car upon entering the freeway. I was in a hurry and I already give the signal but somehow the other car manage to ‘kiss’ the rear end. I spun the whole length of the freeway, it was 3 lane wide. It must not have been my time yet because as I spun I remember thinking oh dear God please let the lanes be empty and it was!!! I was safe, shaken but unhurt.

All good times must come to an end. As I was wrapping up my time in LA, Jen remarked how I will not miss the LA traffic. I remember chuckling saying actually I will miss LA traffic since it is still a whole lot better than Jakarta‘s. Couple days later I’m home. Jet lag over, I tried driving. And of course what’s available is either a big SUV type family van or a serie 5 Beemer. All huge cars compared to my teeny tiny 2 door Toyota. First I had to adjust to a different side of driving. Though the Dutch occupied us for 3.5 century, the Brits were here first and somehow their side of the road preference stuck. Then, Jakarta’s traffic is really crazy what with motorcycles everywhere and crazy bus drivers. I was so not enjoying it. So different from LA and its huuugeee freeways. Heck even in New Jersey the roads were bigger.

I then scratched my husband’s car. He didn’t like it. So I cease driving. In his defense, he then provided me with a driver. So much easier to get mad at the driver than the wife if the car got dings and dents. For a few blissful years I don’t have to worry about anything. Just get in the car, tell the driver where to go, then sit prettily until I arrived at the destination. I can read, eat, sleep, do whatever I want. Until now.

So far we’ve lived pretty much near the city. But very soon we will move into the suburb. Yes, we still have the driver but my husband thinks it is high time we have a second car so we would be more mobile. Due to budgetary restraint, he ended up buying a small compact city car. How much bigger can a hint be? Yo wifey, learn to drive. Again.

Well, I guess I have to overcome my fear of the streets and conquer it. Cross fingers I’ll be ok 😉

How about you? Do you drive? What tips would you give?