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#13: Take me on a ride
Every once in a while, my mind would glitch and I'd wonder if maybe I should save up for a car. Oh the places I could go. Out-of-town trips I don’t have to wait until the weekend to take. Long solo drives I could go on when my body tells me to leave the house without a particular destination in mind. I was never one of those kids who had a car to drive to school in high school or college, which is why I think I still have it in me to romanticize the idea of a car in a city where cars can barely move. Most of my friends who spent their teens and/or 20s driving no longer do so these days, opting for the backseat of cabs or Grab/Gocars instead. Too tired. Too stressful. Too much time precious time wasted driving. If I had a car, though, I think I’d be free. There’s this idea that I could just go at any given moment, without the hassle of ordering on an app, or having strangers know my address. And with my current working hours — which is non-existent — I imagine being able to easily beat inconveniences like ganjil-genap, rush hour, and the likes.
The saner part of my brain would argue against it. The taxes aren’t worth it. General maintenance just isn’t worth it. And plus I won’t get as much use out of it as I think, because eventually I’d just grow tired of it. And yet. I wish…
Some of my favorite memories of people have to do with cars. There was more to our family’s Mitsubishi Colt van than the long early morning commute from our Jatibening home in Bekasi to our school in Salemba, Central Jakarta. When I was a kid, we often took road trips, to Pangandaran, to Yogyakarta, even went on several trans-Sumatra trips. My dad would magically turn the back of our van into a flat bed convenient for us kids to sleep in and we would spend days on end on the road, listening to a Chrisye album on repeat. I had a pretty great childhood, for all those trips and several other reasons (maybe someday I’ll write about that too). But a big part of that childhood had to do with the fact that our family had a car to take us places.
It’s not always about some grand adventure either. Having a car in a city like Jakarta, where one would be hard pressed to entertain themselves other than going to the mall (which I admittedly love), gives you an opportunity to microdose on adventure. A late-night drive along Sudirman towards Mangga Besar. Weekend foodie trips to Kelapa Gading. People like to think they’re going out of their comfort zone when they do this, but when you have your car with you, the only comfort zone you’re getting out of is your usual parking spot at Plaza Senayan, which you frequent way too often. And that’s kind of the appeal to be honest? A car doesn’t just get you out of your comfort zone, it eases you out of it.
In some cases just being in the car, whether moving or parked, can be the whole point. There is nothing I love more than sharing car space with friends, listening to something we all love, whether songs or a podcast. This is how I remember falling in love with the Call Your Girlfriend podcast almost 10 years ago, in my friend Lisa’s car, driving to grab dinner after our Sunday shift at the newspaper we used to work for. I remember one night being particularly hooked on their conversation that we sat in the car at Setiabudi One’s parking lot for half an hour just laughing our heads off. Sharing car space affords you a slice of intimacy amidst the noise of the world. When you’re in a car, everything fades away; it’s just you in the privacy of your own new reality.
People who own cars in this city experience a romance that us mortals who can’t afford one or are too commitment-averse to be on a “cicilan mobil” plan simply do not have access to. When you drive in the city, you hold the ultimate rizz card. You get to say “gue anterin aja” and be the absolute man. I recently rewatched “Catatan Harian Si Boy” (2011) — where the characters speak Indonesian like actual normal people, a cinematic feat few Indonesian films have achieved — Ario Bayu’s character pulled a “gue anterin aja” and just like that, Tasya, the girl he met at the local police station one serendipitous night after being arrested for street racing, found a whole new friend group she would go on to love.
I love driving friends home and try to do it in the rare occasion that I have a car with me. Love knowing we have another 30 minutes to continue — or debrief from — a dinner conversation.
All of this, of course, is a rose-tinted view of car ownership, and it’s really more of a symptom for something else. Maybe I miss my friends? At least 80% of my friendships take place over Facetime and Whatsapp these days and I miss actually spending time with them, making new memories and stuff. I recently drove to Bandung for a quick one-night trip and had a super lovely time. I want more of that. Maybe I’m dire need of getting out of my element? Now that I’m not working full-time and have more time to myself, I’m suddenly aware of all the ways I could be more adventurous. I imagine a car would give me more control over that part of my life (control is often what most of my material desires boils down to, tbh). I’d love to “live” the life I want with minimal third-party coordination.
I’m not actually going to ever get a car, I think. Maybe, more than anything, I want to be taken on a ride (???)