By Vyt Karazija
We all know the simple rules of driving or riding on Bali’s roads. Rule One: Don’t have an accident. If you do, and you survive, you will pay. Not your fault? Like hell it’s not. The other driver or rider might have rocketed into you (without looking) from a tiny side-street, or was overtaking you as you turned right, or crashed into you head-on on your side of the road. But if you are a bule and they are a local, the accident is ipso facto your fault. It’s all their side of the road.
Rule Two: If you are a bule, don’t stand within 20 metres of an accident between two locals, and never, ever spend more than three seconds looking at the carnage. Don’t even consider rushing in to help – you will immediately be blamed for the accident, then asked for money for vehicle damage, hospital fees, cremation costs, hurt pride – you name it, there will be an excuse as to why you, the innocent bule, should pay.
Rule Three: Watch out for scams such as the one I witnessed the other day. There I was, enjoying Bali street culture over the rim of a pretentious little cappuccino, when a local rides past, looking intently in his mirrors. Behind him, a young surfer type, shirtless, no helmet, dreamy expression, closes up looking for an opportunity to overtake. With impeccable timing, the local slams on his brakes and stops right in front of me. The surfer has good reflexes, and only gives rear tyre of the bike in front a light thump as he skids to a halt. The impact is about a quarter as hard as you get from a typical Bali pothole. There is no panel contact and no-one falls off.
I catch a fleeting look of joy on the face of the local as he leaps off his bike, transforms his grin into a contrived mask of shock and rage and screams: “You pay! You pay!” at the stunned lad behind him. “Umm, there’s no damage,” says the surfer. “My bike broken!” cries the Aggrieved One. “You pay me one million!”
I break my own rule about non-interference in Bali street theatre. I’m flexible like that. I get the surfer’s attention and tell him it’s a scam, then pull out my phone and pacify the scammer by saying that I will call the Tourist Police so they can sort it out. Strangely, he is not pacified by my actions, riding off in high dudgeon and yelling an expletive over his shoulder. It’s obviously a Chinese curse of some sort, but Google Translate doesn’t seem to recognise it.
I wonder how common this particular stunt is? Obviously this little crook was an amateur. A true professional would have at least have demonstrated a better developed sense of drama by falling off his bike and having a bruise that he had prepared earlier.