Sunday, August 30, 2015

On surviving traffic-jams

The rise of Asia’s largest cities brings not only benefits to their inhabitants. Many cities have, since they were not prepared for the rapid growth, too narrow streets, ineffective or non-existing signage, tens of thousands of traffic newcomers and a rapidly growing number of cars. 

The consequence for the everyday life of millions of people: Traffic jams on the streets of many major cities that often go on for hours. 

A two hour commute to office is nothing say many residents in large South-East Asian urban areas such as Bangkok, Jakarta and Manila. The 60+ hours that motorists in Germany have on average lost in traffic jams, are nothing compared to what you can experience in Asia.

How do people deal with massive traffic jams on that scale? 

Go Online: How did we actually survive traffic jams without Smartphones? Facebook and YouTube have particularly high rates of access at peak times. No wonder, mobile-charging cables for the car are now within the basic kit for every car. How about becoming the new selfie king/queen of your city?
Instead of complaining, take pictures of yourself in traffic and upload it. 
...Our you could simply continue playing Qyu.

TV: In Bangkok or Tokyo there are cars with screens and extra antennas, where one can watch television - a distraction, which is meant to be used exclusively by bored passengers.

Catch some sleep: If you do not sit behind the wheel, you can at least close your eyes while in transit. In a packed minibus in Manila many who woke up early in the morning in order to get a seat, do just that. But undisturbed sleep is rare: "I often get woken up because my snoring bothers the others," said Medardo Gonzales in Manila.

Save souls: In many minibuses in Manila, preachers are trying to bring a couple of sheep on the right path during the hour-long ride. The most popular Bible verses in the packed bus, are likely "So brethren be patient," James 5.7. 

Nibbling on food: Hungry? On every street corner there are stalls with takeaway snacks. Skewers, dumplings, or soups with straws? You name it. In Bangkok there are even in-car snack-packages with attached spoon that keep the food warm while the air conditioner running at full speed. 

Personal hygiene: Tweezers, cotton swabs, and nail scissors - many motorists use the traffic-jam leisure time in the car for grooming using the rear view mirror to remove these annoying nose hairs, clean ears, or get rid of pimples. Female riders put on mascara and lipstick.

Car hygiene: How about getting your car cleaned? In Jakarta it is likely that an 
unsolicited wet rag lands on your front window. Quickly sprayed soap; someone, throws the rag around, wiping the window dry - and then demanded a "tip" for cleaning service. 

Traffic-jam pop-up stores: Fragrant flowers for the car, drinks (hot & cold), newspapers - sellers of all kinds weave swiftly between the cars. Everything is portable. High in demand in Bangkok are those sellers who, sporting a wearable cooler around their necks, conjure iced drinks. "I am doing my online shopping in a traffic jam or call customers", says stockbroker Winluck in Bangkok.

Other shops: In Manila once jingle bags were a best seller: Mobile urinals. Even in Bangkok many motorists have prepared an emergency toilet in the car. 

Ride-sharing lanes: In Jakarta some lanes for cars with at least three occupants are reserved. At the entrances are potential co-riders who will ride with you for a few pennies. High in demand are mothers with babies: They count double.

Outsmarting the jam: The best traffic-jam survival strategy is not to be in one. In many markets mobile apps like ParkerMeister ( or similar apps show you where you should and should NOT go. So it is just a question of preparation of you are in the jam or not.

Monday, June 29, 2015

On genuinely getting lost

Go to the next bus stop.
Take the next bus.

With directions like these can travelers explore the city, coincidentally discovering places no tourist has ever seen or even known. Gamified traveling : Detours increase the knowledge of a place.

Nowadays you only rarely see them; tourist awkwardly handling a battered city-map bending in the wind, searching for north/south guaranteed storming off in the wrong direction.

This is without a doubt the 21st century. Today satellites are supporting our travels steered by the global positioning system. The art of genuinely getting lost has become a dying trade.

But now is the time for a change. Now is the time for a counter movement. Now is the time to get lost. And groups like the Flaneur Society are following this trend.The problem is with all information readily available through the smart-phone, we are experiencing space and time only indirectly.

But genuinely getting lost takes some practice.

And like most activities, it is most fun if you make a game out of it.

Get off after 12 stops
After getting off, turn left.

Take your time. Sit down once in a while and look around. Write down what you see. How it feels.
The modern flaneur is a human being who aimlessly lingers overlaying the inner nothingness with a multitude of impressions.

If you see a guy in glasses turn around

“Not to find one's way around a city does not mean much. But to lose one's way in a city, as one loses one's way in a forest, requires some schooling. Street names must speak to the urban wanderer like the snapping of dry twigs, and little streets in the heart of the city must reflect the times of day, for him, as clearly as a mountain valley. This art I acquired rather late in life; it fulfilled a dream, of which the first traces were labyrinths on the blotting papers in my school notebooks.”
                                      ― Walter Benjamin, Berlin Childhood around 1900