Every graduate from elementary, junior and senior high school has to score a minimum percentage on a number of nationally set exams. One of these compulsory subjects is mathematics, and such is its level of difficulty that Jakarta supports a large number of private institutions providing extra lessons.
One would assume therefore that in-depth practical applications of the subject would be commonplace. That would be wrong.
Jakartass Towers is situated in a back street off a main road and our address, like everyone else's in our neighbourhood, has a certain logic.
Streets which exit the main street, the jalan raya, are in alphabetical order so, to get to our house you first need to enter the jalan raya, for example Jalan Sudirman, and then look for Jalan D. However, our back street runs parallel to Jalan Sudirman and similar streets are named by letters from the far end of the alphabet, so we live in Jalan X which, like the main street, is quite long.
So our address is (not) Jl.Sudirman X/6.
In the interests of rukun (harmony) and social control, each house is designated within a rukun tetangga (RT - neighbourhood association) of, in our case, 45 houses. Every resident is supposed to be registered with Pak RT.
Each RT is a sub-division of a rukun warga (RW - citizen's association) which in turn is a sub-division of a kelurahan (village administrative unit). This is where Indonesians sort out ID cards and check whether they've been included on the electoral register. In terms of the larger bureaucracy, our kelurahan is a sub-division of one of the five Jakarta the mayoralties, and so it goes up to City Hall, through the police, immigration and whichever government department is interested in keeping tabs on the 230 or so million people in this vast country..
Anyway, it's important that addresses show both the RT and RW codes, particularly in our case because there are six houses with the (notional) address of Jl.Sudirman X/6. One of the others supplies domestic workers, probably for Saudi Arabia, and another is the house-surgery of a doctor.
A few years back, an ex-colleague of mine, with his Indonesian family, lived on Jalan H, a short walk away. They lived at number 36 which was next to and on the left of number 47. We supposed that this anomaly could have been explained by the amalgamation of a number of smaller parcels of land some 50 years ago when the original farmland was sold off to be smothered with bricks and mortar. But that still doesn’t explain why the house on the other side also had the number 47.
Being woken up in the middle of the night by a driver from the provinces attempting to 'deliver' a future maid has become distinctly unfunny. Slightly more bearable are the courier services attempting to deliver urgent medicines to the doctor, or, better yet, missives from banks which occasionally include credit cards. Unfortunately for us, we are honest folk and, generally politely, suggest that they check the RT/RW designation of their destination.
Ours is prominently displayed at the front gate: it's (not) Jl.Sudirman X/6, RT007/RW 012.
If everyone followed these guidelines then we would expect to sleep relatively soundly.
Even then we would not necessarily be free from the effects of numerical chaos.
Our telephone landline was installed abour nineteen years ago. I remember it well because the owner of the house had been on Telkom's waiting list for some eight years and it was a a day of great rejoicing.
Three years later, a couple of friends rang to let us know that our number had been changed: Telkom hadn't informed us.
Our home phone number has, thankfully, remained the same ever since but that doesn't mean that all's well. Some Indonesian phrases trip off my tongue with ease, and salah sambung (literally wrong connection) is one of these.
For a couple of years we would get calls asking to speak to Pak So And So of PT Such & Such. We never worked out what line of business he was in.
More recently, we have discovered that our number is shared with a hotel in Bogor, the town about 60 kilometres south of Jakarta, and we are worried about our reputation. You see, most callers ask to be put through to Dewi, or another woman, in a particular room number. That most of these calls happen quite late in the evening has lead us to think that the hotel in question is not so much a boutique hotel as a boudoir hotel.
We would be grateful if future clientele would remember to dial the Bogor code, which is 0251, before dialing our number. ................................ Originally published in the Jakarta Globe.