LAKE PLACID (Jakarta, Indonesia) – 5 JUNE 2005 (part 1 of 2)


Dateline Indonesia



This is a true story. Indonesian apartments will normally have a servant’s room that runs off a small back balcony whilst a large front balcony would face outward with nice views over the city. It is one of those that we rented. We did not have a servant. Where I grew up you did things yourself. My wife was visiting with friends and I was enjoying a lazy Sunday morning…now read on. Part 1 of a 2-part blog)

Couple of Sundays ago, having just moved into his “new” 9th floor apartment overlooking a placid sun-splashed golf driving range, yours truly (call me Paunchy for short, since I have a bit of a beer belly) had himself an appointment to visit with some friends around 12 noon.

Following tried and tested standards Paunchy the Organized calls in advance to confirm the appointment – thus trying to align the local custom of perpetual lateness with western values of punctuality.

Lucky break! Paunchy’s friend asks to delay the meeting till 3 pm since he still has to fly back from another island.

Ok, so Paunchy the Delayed, now with a clutch-full of free time (a.k.a. as the Devil’s Pillow) on his hands, and with a “waste not, want not” attitude, pops some clothes into the washing machine. Regulation activity. And to complete the picture Paunchy the Relaxed decides to hang loose on the front balcony for 20 minutes or so, taking in some sunshine and relishing the panorama. Ah what a life…Relaxation at its best. Unadulterated Freedom!

And …hm? What is that.. uh… gushing?…sound? Paunchy the Nonchalant strolls into the kitchen Noise emanating from the cupboard below the sink? Bends down. Opens door. Regulation activity. Doors are made to be opened. Normally….

…. And a jet-stream of water gushes straight past Paunchy the Slightly Bewildered, hits the fridge door on the other side of the kitchen like a torrent from a fireman’s hose. Without the regulation clanging of bells and screeching of tires…Also without the regulation brass-buttoned uniforms and long-stem axes (an insignificant but insightful little detail that the reader is advised to remember for later consumption).

Instant TURMOIL.

Downtown Bagdad!

Slam! Shut goes the door.


Open goes the door.

No change in activity. Gulf Stream still in full operational mode. Shut goes the door. “Shit” goes Paunchy. And nearly adds action to words.

Disbelief is fast becoming a pressing pastime. Then turns into a fulltime personal trait.

12:01: Fast-thinking Paunchy the Dutchman grabs the bedcover that is still on the lounge suite from watching “The Perfect Storm” on TV the night before, throws it down and molds it like a dike to contain the water in the kitchen. Aha at least any flooding into the rest of the apartment is now (temporarily) under control. Paunchy the Electrician slips on his rubber-soled Noahs and shplonks into the little upstart lake now placidly assembling in the kitchen – to unplug any electrical appliances. Smart Thinking Paunchy Einstein. Better safe than sorry. Self-confidence grows again with every stride – just a minor inconvenience. A pre-lunchtime burp so to speak.

12.02: Paunchy the Telephonist searches the mobile phone directory for the Emergency Services number… No such number…. OK. Not a problem, Paunchy the Unfazed calls the owner of the apartment – to ask them to contact Emergency Services. The connection is made. Paunchy the Pedagogue explains the situation with the calmness of a Tourist Board Guide on a downtown City Bus. Control is all important and Paunchy the Confident is still in (slightly less than full) command of the – by now – slow forming little Lake Placid in the kitchen.

Paunchy to Owner: “By the way, can you tell me where in the apartment is the emergency shit-off…I mean, shut-off tap?”

Owner to Paunchy: “Hmm let us see, if we are not mistaken (and we might be, by the sound of the confidence level in the voice of the owner) it is either in the cupboard where the problem is (hmm) or in the servant’s quarters where the geyser is located – just behind the kitchen. Just open the kitchen door that leads onto the small balcony and the servant’s room in the back. We are sure it is there…”

Paunchy the Unconvinced, now sounding more and more like Noah: “Roger”.

Option One. Opens the cupboard again. Tries to put his hand in front of the Jet Stream. Which hits him in the face. And dislodges his glasses. Damn! Scramble. Tap. Splash! Feel. Be careful. You don’t want to do this without glasses. Feel. Tap. More Feel. Ah. Lady Luck is a Kind old Bitch, sorry, Nanny. Glasses are found. Returned to both ears. Drip, but not dry. Impaired Vision is better than No Vision.

No Emergency Shut-off Tap Here. Ok one more to go.

The servant’s quarters now starts to figure in Paunchy the Hopeful’s mind with the same urgency and determination as a light-house does in the mind of a ship’s captain on a stormy night. Paunchy the (Now Much Less) Confident steadies himself in the Rising Tide, splish-sploshes to the kitchen door, opens it and splashes out onto the tiniest of balconies that leads into the servant’s quarters…

…. and hears the kitchen door slams shut behind him by virtue of a slight daft.. er, draft.…

(part 2 of 2 will appear Monday)


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