My friend asked me this morning if I was cool with calling two Uber motorbikes to take us to our tourist destination. “Sure, yeah!” I said. “I rode on the back of a motorbike in Thailand, and it was so fun!”
This is true. But that ride was about five minutes long down a mostly deserted street. Granted, it was raining and pitch dark, so it did feel thrilling at the time, but I did not fully think through the implications of riding a motorbike in Jakarta through traffic in the middle of the day.
I loved ATVing in Boracay! I thought to myself, failing to consider that that driving experience had been on a dirt path devoid of other vehicles and that I had been in control, able to brake anytime I pleased.
People do this all the time, so it’s no big deal, I assured myself. And I felt assured all the way up to the moment I hopped on the back of the bike – face mask, shower cap, and helmet firmly in place, feet just barely having found their place behind the driver – and the guy took off into traffic before I had quite decided what to do with my hands.
At that moment, I was immediately hit with the realization that if I lost my balance, I would fall off the bike into the street and instantly be hit by one of the various vehicles zooming around us.
I decided that if I did lose my balance, I would grab onto the guy driving––who cared what he thought? This was my life!––but then I worried that that kind of sudden movement night surprise him and cause us to crash.
Just as that progression of thoughts was concluding, we merged onto the highway.
I played it cool, gripping the back of my seat like a scared nine-year-old as I glanced casually around at the scenery and the plethora of other vehicles amongst which we were weaving. None of the other people on the backs of motorbikes were holding onto anything with their hands, so I experimented with resting one of my hands on my lap. For about five seconds.
Then my driver realized we had lost my friend and started driving while navigating with his phone.
I arrived at my destination in one piece if you were concerned. And me and my friend subsequently went for a very tranquil canoe ride.
When my friend laughed and said I had been terrified on the motorbike, I denied it. “It was a perfectly delightful experience,” I assured her. “I love Jakarta.” Then I laughed uproariously when she freaked out about losing her balance while climbing into our canoe. (We each have our own comfort zones.)
Sometimes there’s a fine line between putting your life at risk and making a great memory, but sometimes it’s a line worth seeking out.