16 May 2010

A Week in the Life of a Grammar Monkey: Sunday (Part 7 of 7)

Well folks, it's Sunday night -- so that's pretty much a wrap.  I don't know about you guys, but I'd say this little week-long experiment in finding joy (or at least amusement) in the quotidian mundane went rather well.  It gave me reason to pay attention to the little quirks of daily life in Indonesia that I don't notice anymore, and it gave you a brief window into the sometimes-humdrum, sometimes-hilarious existence that I've built for myself here over the last nine months.  Plus, now everyone knows I'm currently keeping a liquid-filled slug on my leg.

Which brings me to the bad news -- this evening, sadly, I popped my slug.  I was sitting down to dinner with my friend Lolly at our favorite Indian restaurant, and I guess I wasn't paying proper attention to the whereabouts of my right calf, because the next thing I knew I had a clear, slightly sticky liquid coursing down the back of my leg, and my slug was lying wrinkled and deflated against my skin.  I know this is probably too much information for those of you not medically inclined (or maybe even for those of you who are), but I realized I'd grown kind of attached to what I had begun referring to as "my slug," and it's a shame it lives no more.  It is also a shame that my tailpipe burn blister has become an open wound subject to infection, since now I have to work extra hard to keep it clean.  Hey dad, any suggestions?

On the other hand, I also have some good news -- something happened to me this evening that reminded me why living in Indonesia is actually pretty amazing.  Before dinner, Lolly at I stopped by the thrift store across the street from the restaurant, and I locked Maurice with my big fatty bike lock because I am in the habit of doing that (no one likes a stolen bike!).  The lock is basically a huge chain sheathed in some kind of super-hard plastic casing, and at one end there's a bolt that plugs into a hole on the other end and clicks locked with a key.  The key has been getting stuck in the lock recently, but I figured it was because rainwater had got inside and rusted it a little bit, and anyway all it usually takes is a little wiggling to unlock.  So I didn't think anything of it when I went to unlock it after the thrift store and the key got a little jammed, but the usual wiggling didn't seem to be working, and then -- oh dread -- the key BROKE OFF inside the lock.  And then I flipped out.  

Of the approximately four to five hundred thoughts that immediately rushed through my head, the relevant ones included the following: 1) there is now no way to unlock my bike, and therefore no way to ride it home; 2) even if I could go home, get the spare key and come back here, there would still be no way to unlock my bike, and therefore no way to ride it home; 3) I cannot walk home carrying my bike, so I will have to leave it here and will probably never see it again; 4) the only way to be able to ride my bike home will be to get someone to cut the lock off, which is something I will be unlikely to accomplish on a Sunday night, even if I could get the bike to such a person with such equipment; 5) I will not be eating Indian food with Lolly tonight.  This was largely the nature of my flip-out, although I think I voiced a few bad words, which is something I don't usually do.  I just couldn't believe I had spoiled my evening out with Lolly, put Maurice in a terrible position and eliminated my one form of independent transportation, all in one ill-fated flick of the wrist.

Taking immediate action, Lolly and I walked down the street a few meters to see if we could find one of the motorbike repair guys who set up shop on the side of the road and ask if they might have any ideas, but we came across a hardware store first, which I figured was a good place to start.  We walked back up to the thrift store, and I was getting ready to pick Maurice up by his frame and walk him down to the hardware store to see if they would have anything strong enough to cut the lock, when an old man who had also been shopping at the thrift store and had seen the commotion (I think he probably heard me say the bad words) came out to inquire after the problem.  I showed him the broken stub of my key and did my best to explain what had happened, although it was pretty obvious the predicament I was in.  He first motioned across the street and said it would be possible to get the lock cut over there, but when I kept asking "Wait, where exactly?  Over where?" he took pity on my incompetent self and matters into his own hands.  He asked for the key, which I handed over, and then he tried to fit the stub into the opening of the lock, even though the entire length of the key was still inside.  Yeah, like that'll work, I thought -- and it first it didn't, but when I took the key back from him and tried it one more time just to see, totally miraculously, it did.  Somehow the key stub was able to turn the rest of the key enough to disengage the lock, and the chain popped open.  Maurice was free!  And now Lolly and I could go get Indian food!

I thanked the man profusely and then we parted ways, but the whole incident just made me realize how lucky I am to live in a place where there are people like this man, and this is how things operate -- where strangers help strangers in need.  Sometimes the lack of systemization in Indonesia and the informality of processes that are standardized in the U.S. infuriates and confounds me -- for example, in this country, if something gets stolen, people are just as likely to call the dukun (a traditional magical healer, like a shaman) as they are to call the police -- but sometimes, grassroots problem-solving works better.  And it feels better too.

So from where I'm sitting on this Sunday evening, I'd say: another great week in Indonesia accomplished.  It wasn't the most exciting or the most exotic, but sometimes all it takes to make a great story is just to tell the ones that are happening around you.  And I mean, come on -- impromptu interviews, homemade kite-flying, personalized field trips, bicycle near-catastrophes, and liquid-filled blister slugs?  Just TRY to tell me you weren't wildly entertained.  Just go ahead and try.

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