Daniel Pope recalls a new year that didn’t begin well
I am a mobile technology geek. As well as carrying a five-inch Nokia phone, I keep in my shoulder bag an eight-inch Samsung tablet, a nine-inch iPad, and an 11-inch laptop. Although I have specific use cases for each of these devices, I just like to carry around a range of specifications. I guess I adhere to a certain personality type. If my interest were in guns instead of communication devices, I’d probably be carrying around a pistol, a revolver, a shotgun, a semi-automatic rifle, and a couple of hand grenades. I’d also almost certainly be serving life for murder.
On New Year’s Eve 2013, I was staying at a friend’s house in Sanur, south-east Bali. Tyronne was an amicable American with a hearty appetite for good food and drink, and we were heading out to celebrate the New Year in the lively bars along Jalan Danau Tamblingan.
We had been drinking periodically since the start of the day – Tyronne made a fabulous breakfast punch – but I was clear-headed enough to remember to take a note of our address on my mobile phone in case we got split up later. I was unfamiliar with the area, and doubted that I could find my way back alone.
And so, armed to the teeth with my devices, off we went to celebrate. The mood was good, the company was bonkers, and we drank lots. Then at about 2am it was time to fish out the car keys and head home. Oh, did I mention that Tyronne was driving? Drink-drive laws in Indonesia, if they exist, aren’t enforced as strictly as in some other countries.
My pet peeve is drivers who park their cars with the same disregard for the streets as people who drop litter, by vehicles that block pavements, forcing pedestrians to step into the road. There are too many vehicles. Like sand they get everywhere. And I’m not disinclined to kick an illegally parked car that is in my way.
But parking once hit back at me. A car park entrance barrier clobbered me on the head as I was walking into the forecourt of Jakarta’s Gajah Mada Mal, not looking where I was going. I staggered back, seeing stars. But I quickly feigned composure, not wanting to appear a fool, trying to make it seem to witnesses that I had got the better of the barrier.
I felt woozy. Shopping was now the last thing on my mind. I had to go home and lie down. Perhaps I had a mild concussion. Worst of all, I kept thinking of those cases you read in the papers about people who receive a knock on the head, cheerily declare that no damage has been done, and then drop dead several hours later.
On the way back from the bars, Tyronne suggested that we stop at McDonald’s. He elected to wait in the car while I fetched some food for us both. Entering the restaurant, I took my place in the rowdy queue, repelled by that sickly sweet and salty smell that you get in some fast food places, but looking forward to placing my order.
I had an Australian housemate in Jakarta who after a night on the town would reward his beer-bloated belly with a takeaway meal of a Big Mac with two large fries. Arriving home, he would reheat the fries in a pan, dump the lot on a plate with the burger, and flop down in front of the television.
After eating most of this greasy feast, he would fall asleep – perhaps his body’s emergency back-up reaction for when the gag reflex fails. And there he would remain until dawn, a duel line of ants crawling up and down his leg to reach and carry off the crumbs on his plate. I always imagined that zooming in on those ants would reveal a Disney-esque scene of marching cartoon insects singing and blowing trumpets as they toiled.
Emerging from McDonald’s clutching two bulging bags of burgers, I was puzzled to find that the spot where Tyronne’s car had been parked was now standing empty. I thought he must have gone round the block for some reason. But when it began to seem that he wasn’t coming back, I decided to call him.
Unfortunately my phone was dead. I had noticed earlier that the battery was critically low, but had been too diverted to care. This loss of information also meant that I had no access to my record of Tyronne’s address, which I otherwise could have shown to a taxi driver and got home easily.
Furthermore, I had left my bag containing my other devices in the footwell of the car when I went to fetch the food. A chill came over me as my circumstances dawned – I was without communications and internet.
No messenger, no Google, no maps. I had been disarmed. I was powerless. I had only my brain. God help me.
I had one memory to go on. Tyronne lived near a monument. This Hindu edifice, situated in the middle of a park, was immense enough to be seen from all over the area. It was a famous landmark. It should have been easy to find.
But what followed was an epic six-hour search for Tyronne’s house, during which dawn broke, I sobered up rapidly, got drenched in the rain (once I’d decided that sheltering was just wasting time), trudged roads long and short, walked in circles large and small, and encountered many dead ends.
People to ask for directions were scarce by now. Groups of stragglers on the streets were mostly drunk and unhelpful. None were in a fit state to open Google maps on their phone. Often my request for directions would be met with a party trumpet blown in my face. It was like imploring for help in a lunatic asylum. I plopped down in despair many times.
I took three taxis, the drivers of which all failed to recognise the monument I was describing, which got me further lost. I banged hopelessly on the doors of closed cyber cafes, stumbled into paddy fields that waterlogged my boots. I ran after a minibus, but got repelled by a black cloud of exhaust fumes. I walked on. I even tried walking backward just to see if it had any surprising advantage.
Eventually I got there. A kindly professional driver spotted me plodding along a grass verge toward oblivion, and we worked out together where Tyronne lived. Never had I been so grateful to anyone in my life. I thanked him endlessly.
This tale has no proper ending because Tyronne never could remember why he’d driven off without me. We discussed it the next afternoon, but it remained a mystery. But, hell, this was Bali, a party town where mental fog and a blank memory after New Year’s Eve were solid evidence of a good time. He began to prepare some late breakfast punch while I went online, gratefully settling back into a world where I never got lost.