(Another true story – 7 Cans. 1 Hour)

Back story:

  • I found a job in Jakarta, Indonesia and still rented a weekend house in the small steel town 85 km from the city where most of my friends stayed. It gave me an opportunity to get out of the city for Fun Runs which predictably invariably ended up with more Fun than Run. It also afforded a welcome break from the IT business, choked traffic, eternal protest rallies and glitzy shopping malls.
  • I used to drive myself out of the city on those Friday evening and to get into the mood I would buy two or three 750ml bottles of local Anchor beer and soak them up on the way home. Translated it would mean about 7 standard cans. The journey would normally take about an hour in the dark once you leave the city.

Seven cans. One hour.

There I was, buckled up and belting down the toll road out of a partially pyrotechnically and incrementally infantile protesting Jakarta. Friday evening! On my way “home!” La Dolce Vita clenched between my thighs, in the form of the second bottle of half-sipped luke-warm beer, windows wound down to let in Mother Nature – listening to “Hey Jude” on the radio at 160 clicks an hour. Alone.

It was 10 p.m. and getting unsteadily later. The road sign reflected 45 km, and two more exits to the final turn-off. And home. Choices multiplied: switch radio stations, switch destinations, switch brands. Matrices of Madness with unclear interim destinations but a predictable end-result. Life in the Fast Lane – 30 years too late. Woodstock had come and gone. Even Bob Dylan has changed religion twice.

And basically only one of the three Big Walls remained: Checkpoint Charlie is now checking out a vanishing heap of Berlin rubble. Pink Floyd helped educate those protesting voices of a past generation who “don’t need no education” whilst the Great Wall of China continues to be visible from the moon – probably the only safe place to watch the increasingly lunatic economical and political wobble on Planet 3.

But, hello, what the human eye fails to see, is the biggest human artifact – the worldwide telephone network. Socket to me, you, and whomever else is plugged-in, powered-up and pass-worded. It only needed another w (the web). Funny what just one character can do. But that is just the point. It needs character do worthwhile things. Character, the Anchor of the Spirit. Unbottled. And Stirred.

But the one BIG worry is when, stirred, the alphabet soup of beer misspells your name. Then you are really in the wrong soup. And that brings us full circle: Souped-up wheels, with souped-up drivers, bottling at souped-up-speed-an-hour down souped-up toll roads will land you in the soup. Almost always. With only one destination. You don’t need the pick. And the shovel they will use to dig the hole.

Anchors Away!

15 clicks till exit. One more bottle to go. Aha! But what is that they say about beer? Once you “break the seal it keeps on leaking”. Not a challenge where I am on the “Highway to Hedon”. Pull over to do the “number three”. Cigarette in mouth and with Pink Floyd now belting from the speakers I walk around the front of the car, unzip and turn the relief valve open.

Heaven. Is. A. Roadside. Pee…

…and a Highway Patrol car slides by, windows down – and just keep moving right along.

New-found democracies tend to be more flexible.

Can’t image the scene had this been somewhere else. The USA. The UK. South Africa.

Cilegon, Indonesia. Friday 15th October,1999.


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