An Afternoon With A Tukang Ojek

The initial reaction when I saw his ojek (motorbike taxi) approaching me was: no, I didn’t want to hire his. It wasn’t because I didn’t like this man: a 40-something, around 155 cm-tall, broad-shouldered, overweight and long-haired, that for me he looked more like a bromocorah (bandit) than a tukang ojek (motorbike taxi driver/rider). My sentiment was even getting stronger especially when his eyes, cold and intimidating, met mine.

In my instant judgement of his appearance, he would very much scare than attract potential customers which is probably giving him more of negative impression in the business where feeling safe and good first impression are all important.

However, it was his firmness and decisiveness that had forced me against my will to take a ride with him.

He moved forward, fast, out of ojek stand, ahead of other tukang ojeks, and in an instant was already by my side even before I found the familiar faces, tukang ojeks that I usually take when go home from work.

“Get on”, he said with his head gave a gesture toward the back seat of his motorbike. “I’ll take you home.” And against all odds, he smiled.

During the ride, I was mostly quite, except for a few words telling him direction leading to my house. Nothing wrong being quite with tukang ojek, I know. In fact, it is perfectly normal to be quite at all. People don’t suppose to talk to tukang ojek during a ride. However, I usually chat with other tukang ojeks, not just for the sake of breaking the silence: that it is better to be talking instead of being quite, which is in that case the conversation is done merely to conform to social politeness. It is more than that knowing more people is better. Somehow, I agree to the notion that whomever the person is, each has their own unique experience to share which can enrich both the story teller and the listener.

But this ojek man is different. For one thing, he stinks. His smell was like someone who had not taken a bath for months. Worst, this was a long-haired man who doesn’t care to look after his appearance. Given the situation, how could I start conversation with him? Even when I told him the direction I did so holding my breath.

I should have discontinued my ride and opted to walk instead or take another ojek, I thought to myself. Then all of sudden, the motorbike hit something and jumped as if it was ready to fly.

“What are you doing Pak (Sir)?” I shouted at him, shocked. “Didn’t you see that road bump ahead of us?” I basically enraged at this carelessness. And not to mention all the inconvenience and annoyance he had caused thus far.

“I did see that road bump.” Calmly came his reply.

“Then why you didn’t avoid it? I almost fell from your bike Pak.”

“I did it on purpose.”

“What?” I didn’t believe what I heard.

“You were so unusually quite. So I think you need something to excite you. It is called ‘Shock Therapy’!” He whistled, humming a melody that sounded familiar.

He abruptly ended whistling then shifted to talking, telling about a therapy, for curing shyness, performed by someone he knew somewhere.

“To cure what? Shyness?” If he was trying to excite me then this one did it not the ‘Shock Therapy’.

He further explained the therapy like some authority in medicine. He told me that whenever a patient is brought to this medicine man, he will hit a prepared cymbal as loud as possible, in front of the patient, until he or she can’t bear the sound.

“What is the connection between being shy and creating this noise all about?”

“Exactly! What is the connection of being shy and noise? Nothing. I tell you: nothing. If you are deaf then at least there’s a connection. The sound may pierce through the ears and cure them, who knows, right? But this is not. That’s why the therapy is called ‘Sensitivity Contact’.”

“Sensitivity what?” I was fully with him now and immediately understood the moment. I laughed and he laughed back, whatever our laughter meant. In that short period of time I felt strange feeling of pleasure an unpretentious and spontaneous laughter could bring.

“It works, more less, the same with the ‘Shock Therapy’ that I have just done into you. It was meant to stimulate you, to make you speak because we aren’t supposed to be quite. We are humans beings endowed with tongue to talk to each other, so use that gift.”

“The therapy works, doesn’t it?” His voice sounded victorious. He tried to look at me fully but failed. Nonetheless from his lips I could see that he smiled.

“I have another tip that I would like to give you. “ He continued more animatedly. “For free.”

“If you find it hard to rise from bed in the morning, smash both of your open palms against the floor, if you sleep in floor, or against the wall if you sleep on the bed.”

“It will hurt me Pak! How can you give me a tip like that? Have you ever tried it yourself?”

“Believe me, like the ‘Shock Therapy’, it works.”

A few minutes later, finally, the motorbike reached its destination. I got off the motorbike and paid him his due money.

I had been walking a few steps when I heard him shouted something from my back, “Don’t forget to do what I said tomorrow morning, will you?” His forefinger pointed at me.

I smiled and winked at him before turning my back again.

Julitra Anaada:

Born and grew up in Talaud Islands, the northernmost, and one of the remotest, parts of Indonesia.

He earns living in Jakarta, the capital.

All posts are his own work, unless stated otherwise. For non-fictional piece, the opinions are strictly personal views.

He can be reached at julitra dot anaada at


Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 26 other followers


%d bloggers like this: