Monday, November 26, 2007
The Jaga Kereta Syndicate
Gone are the days of Free Parking, long gone! In the early 1970s the first uniformed parking attendants made their appearance. But it didn't take them long to discover the benefits of dealing direct with motorists, which significantly increased their take-home pay and cut down on paperwork. City Hall responded by replacing them with parking meters.
Suddenly deprived of a sense of meaning and purpose in life - or, more cogently, suddenly finding themselves out of work - a good number of these parking attendants decided to join the amateurs who, up to now, had been a raggedly disorganised bunch. With a newfound sense of professionalism thse unofficial parking attendants formed themselves into smoothly run syndicates operating throughout the Klang Valley.
Normally their shift begins when the parking meters go off duty but during patches of recessionary extreme the Jaga Kereta Syndicate can be found working their beats even during office hours. For a small 'donation' (the Syndicate bills itself as a charitable organisation) they'll help you locate a parking space; guide you in and out of it; open your door for you; clean your windscreen (unfortunately their dirty rags don't help); ensure that you won't be penalised in case the meter runs out on you; and protect your car against 'accidental scratches.' For a flat fee of $3 they'll wash your car on the spot.
The life of a Jaga Kereta isn't an easy one. You have to be constantly on the ball, be on the lookout for motorists sneaking back to their cars and scooting off scot-free. You have to dodge policemen in patrol cars who pick on you whenever they're bored. And nowadays you have to watch out you don't get robbed by some motorist who's even more desperate than you.
Some people call these Jaga Kereta boys a public nuisance. 'It's pure extortion,' they say. But, come to think of it, isn't everything? Only difference is that they don't have a licence, I mean, take Wilson Parking - whoever he is - is everywhere with his semi-automated car parking system: at all the cinemas, supermarkets, basement garages... but he's got a licence! Which is why you pay more at Wilson's. No arguments, no exceptions.
At least, with the Jaga Kereta Syndicate, you can bargain. Sometimes they let you off
with a respectable salute, if they like your style. Sometimes they'll be happy with a kind word or two in payment. If you don't have small change, they usually say, 'Never mind, next time, boss!' If you've been away for a while, they greet you with, 'Hey boss, long time no see!
When it comes to extortion I'd always rather deal with the freelancers.
jaga kereta - car watchman.