The Jakarta Post
For the last 15 years, Rizal has come to a shaded side street along Bung Karno Stadium to get picked up. A 45-year-old father of seven, he said the job keeps getting tougher.
'I'm just like a fisherman,' he said. 'Every day it's all up to chance.'
Rizal is a jockey (joki), a passenger-for-hire. He gets paid Rp 15,000 (US$1.33) or Rp 20,000 to help motorists cheat the '3-in-1' rule, a three-person occupancy restriction imposed on five major thoroughfares from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. every weekday in the capital.
Introduced in 1994 to mitigate Jakarta's snarling traffic jams, the policy has failed to push commuters into buses and carpools.
'Of course it doesn't work. It just creates job opportunities for people like me,' said Rizal.
However, as urbanization drives competition and the city administration seeks new solutions to traffic congestion, the future of the profession is in doubt.
Sporting a florid batik and clean white sneakers, Rizal said he usually got two rides a day.
Nearby, his 5-year-old son stomped ants on the sidewalk, and his wife and oldest daughter, 25, stood on the curb with pointers outstretched, each cradling an infant. Babies count as full persons and thus double a jockey's rate.
A black Honda pulled over, and as Rizal's wife opened the passenger door, their son tried to hop in after her. Rizal pried him away kicking and screaming, and the sedan drove off.
Rizal was not who you'd expect to find on the street curb. Rocking the child to silence, he gave informed opinions on state corruption, possible US intervention in Syria and national economic development.
'Education', he said. 'That's what the country needs.'
Young marriage and immediate fecundity forced him to work to feed his growing family rather than attend university.
With four kids still in school, he jockeys and takes temporary construction jobs where he can find them.
'I'm always looking for more work,' he said.
Though the Central Statistics Agency's (BPS) office in Jakarta recorded unemployment at only 5.9 percent last February, 60 to 70 percent of the country's workforce is in the informal sector, lacking job security and guaranteed income.
As more unskilled laborers flood into the capital ' an estimated million newcomers arrived after Idul Fitri this year ' jockeys are feeling the pressure.
'I see new faces every week. It's definitely getting more competitive,' said Rina, a mother of two in her early 30s.
She used to work in service but became a jockey more than a year ago because it paid cash on a near daily basis. Wearing makeup and a bright green Hello Kitty top,
she said she typically got three rides a day with her 2-year-old
son, which, less the cost of train fare to and from her home in Depok, netted her around Rp 1.6 million per month.
She said jockeying afforded her independence ' no boss, no taxes, no oversight ' but that she worried with all the newcomers it'd soon become too unprofitable to keep up.
For many, there's less choice in the matter. On the curb beneath the luminous facade of the Grand Indonesia mall, Sisca had called it a night.
A petite 16-year-old with a butterfly tattoo half-visible on her upper back, she and her mother, mentally ill and widowed, had come up empty that day.
Sisca dropped out of school in fifth grade and has worked as a jockey for the last two years.
'It is kind of scary, but I'm used to it,' she said.
More than ill-intentioned drivers, she's afraid of the police. Though jockeying is technically legal, the police had already detained her three times and taken her to a panti sosial (a social welfare institution), where she was given daily meals, a place to sleep and rudimentary schooling. For a minor to be released from a panti, his or her guardian must petition the neighborhood head to write a letter to Jakarta's Social Affairs Agency, which requires ID and proof of address ' the latter of which Sisca's mother lacks.
But Sisca couldn't afford to stay in the panti.
'I had to get back out there to make money to help my mother and younger sisters.'
So, three times Sisca's mom and sisters pulled together Rp 300,000 for an 'exit fee', and she was allowed to leave.
Despite the looming threat of returning to the panti, Sisca won't give up jockeying any time soon.
Lawmakers have sought to replace the three-in-one occupancy policy with an electronic road pricing (ERP) scheme, but the plan is stuck in bureaucratic deadlock with no end in sight.
Last year, however, the city lifted the rule on four major thoroughfares, and according to the Jakarta Transportation Agency, congestion actually lessened in those areas ' though a corresponding ban on street parking also contributed.
If the government decided to phase out the remaining three-in-one zones, Sisca said she'd have to pick up a ukulele and panhandle from cars and pedestrians.
That would be a definite step down from a job that itself doesn't have the best reputation.
Dedy is an ojek driver whose post overlooks Rizal and the other jockeys at Bung Karno Stadium.
'Some jockeys are naughty,' he said. 'They steal bags or phones or whatever they can grab when they get out of someone's car.'
He said it was well known that jockeys thieved, and other denizens ' security guards, drivers, street vendors ' have corroborated this claim.
Dedy sympathized, though, saying it's not that jockeys were criminals, but that tough circumstances forced them to commit extreme acts.
It was for this same reason, he said, that a jockey 'plus-plus' business had sprung up.
'Sometimes they give sexual favors ' if the money's there,' said Dedy.
Like theft, impromptu prostitution is no secret. But jockeys are loath to admit the existence of it or any other associated criminal activity.
'Jockeys don't do those kinds of things,' said Rizal. 'They're good people.'
As the waning afternoon sunlight slanted through the trees, throwing fractured, elongated shadows on the sidewalk, Rizal's wife, granddaughter in tow, came walking back to rejoin her family. Her young son gave an excited yelp and hurled himself against her legs.
Almost immediately after being dropped off near the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle, she had gotten another ride back to Bung Karno Stadium ' pocketing Rp 60,000 in less than an hour.
'Good fortune today,' she said and smiled.
' Photos by Gordon LaForge
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