A Little Information Goes a Long Way

Rayyan Sugangga has reminded me of an incident that took place at the airport in Jakarta a few weeks ago. He and a colleague had arranged to meet me to bring me to my hotel, we had each others’ phone numbers and were coordinating the place to meet by SMS. I got to the designated location and because the signage in the airport is not extremely clear, I checked I was at the right gate with the information desk and at the same time sent an SMS to say I was there.

As I turned around, a man dressed like a porter approached me. “Mr Patrick?” he said. “Yes”, I said. “Follow me” he said, grabbing hold of my case. I was a bit surprised, and asked “Where are my friends? They are meeting me here.” “Stuck in traffic” he said. That made sense, this was Jakarta… so I followed him to a limousine – which I assumed had been booked – but as I did so, sent another SMS to Rayyan to let him know his friend the porter had met me. As I got into the car and gave the man a tip, Rayyan called me. He seemed surprised about the car, and he definitely wasn’t stuck in traffic. He was standing with his colleague very close to where I had been nabbed. So I instructed the driver to drive along the front of the building until we spotted them. As it turned out, neither the porter nor the limousine were part of Rayyan’s plan.

We’d been had – in fact, Rayyan was clearly disturbed that it would have been relatively easy to kidnap me, rob me, or extract money in some other way. All because the porter said my name. How he got my name is anybody’s guess. There is a luggage tag on my case which had my name printed in very small letters, but I defy anyone short of eagle vision to make it out from head height. Perhaps he had overheard Rayyan and his colleague talking about the foreigner they were meeting and did a quick two and two when he saw me nearby. Whatever the case he was extremely entrepreneurial with a little bit of initiative and a very small piece of information, getting a tip from me and probably something from the driver (it was a lot more expensive than a regular taxi) for his pains.

What Rayyan took away from this was the need to be very explicit about the coordination arrangements, and to warn me about the possibility of being deceived. For me, I was more interested in how this fellow had whisked me away from under the noses of the people I was meeting (we knew each other), simply by speaking my name. A little information can go a long way when you are working for yourself in a harsh environment. How come we get so stupid around information when we’re more comfortable and protected?


3 Comments so far

Alakh Asthana

In India we have over 25 regional languages, while each of the states has a state language of its own.

Mumbai is the financial capital of India (now you know the reason for the terrorist attacks) and lies in the state of Maharashtra. There are many migrants in Mumbai from other parts of the nation, due to the large number of jobs in the city.

If you know the regional language of Mumbai i.e. Marathi; half of your life’s miseries are sorted! You can negotiate with the cops if you are not carrying your driver’s license, go to city’s governing bodies and a little regional language + accent + behavior goes a reallyyy long way.

Posted on December 29, 2008 at 08:50 PM | Comment permalink


The gangster movie cliche, “Who wants to know?” might come in handy next time. Scary. Thank goodness for SMS!

Posted on January 05, 2009 at 10:31 AM | Comment permalink


I’m so sorry for this incident. But the most important, nothing happens to you caused by the incident.
I hope you enjoyed, your holiday at december.

Now, u sure started busy again , around the world again smile See u Patrick

Posted on January 08, 2009 at 02:08 PM | Comment permalink

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