39: Bonding and Agreements

Jakarta Bound is a travelogue about life in one of the largest and most densely populated cities in South East Asia.


I arrived at Loewy’s at around 10pm to find Simon sat at the bar with a Long Island ice tea. He was wearing the same suit and shirt from the previous week and had the same affable grin. However, this time he wasn’t cherry red drunk.

“Hey, how’s it going” he said with a broad smile as I approached, offering his well-practiced, firm handshake. He asked me how work was going, which I thought was nice of him. It wasn’t often friends or acquaintances asked me how work was going. Even most of my girlfriends hadn’t ever bothered to ask me about my working day. However – and maybe it’s just my cynical inclinations toward salespeople – Simon struck me as someone who had his scripted protocols and practiced the art of professional seduction instinctively. He knew how to warm his clients up and his impeccable social manners matched his impeccably English accent. I ordered a drink and straight away we got down to discussing the apartment.

Belgian Jeff had told me that Simon was paying $1000 per month for the room he was renting and asked me not to tell him how much he had offered the apartment to me for, which was considerably less. I’d promised the Belgian that I wouldn’t say anything, so instead I told Simon about the price of the other apartments I had seen, which Simon thought were a much better deal than what he was paying at the moment, which was $500 dollars for the room at the Belgian’s place.

“$500!?” I said

“Yes; why? How much did he offer it to you for?” he asked. Since the Belgian had not been honest with me I no longer felt compelled to honour the promise I’d made to him, so I told him that Belgian Jeff had told me that he was charging him a $1000 for the room and asked me not to tell him how much he was offering the whole apartment to me for; “Don’t tell Jeff I told you this, but he offered me the whole apartment for 8,500,000 a month.” Simon clarified that he had actually also been offered the whole apartment for $1000, but definitely not just the room. Either way, the Belgian was not being straight with either of us, and I don’t think Simon liked the idea that he’d been had over. He had quite a high opinion of himself and the idea that a Belgian buffoon who walked around in Crocs with a Beatles soundtrack coming out of his bag bothered him.

“Look” I said, “the best way to do this is to tell Jeff that you have looked around at other places and they’re much cheaper than what you’re paying with him. Tell him that you’re thinking of moving into a place with me and then ask him what’s the best price he can offer us his whole apartment for. He’ll have to give you the same deal he offered me.”

Simon agreed, but he was also interested in taking a look at the other places I had viewed in Mediterania 2. Surprisingly, despite describing his job as Country Manager for his company’s office in Jakarta, a title that alludes to a grand status and a large salary, he was as keen as I was to save money on his accommodation. I told him the best apartment was Vivi’s and I would pass his details onto her so that he could arrange a viewing before we made a decision.

It seemed that my apartment troubles were now over. With Simon pretty much committed to sharing a place with me we were now practically flatmates, it was just a matter of deciding which flat we would be sharing. So with the apartment issue resolved, Simon and I got on with the business of getting drunk in Loewy’s and I got to learn a little bit more about my quirky new flatmate.

Simon very much played on the image he presented as the suave, well-bred Englishman abroad. He told me he liked to wear a suit when he was out socialising in Asia because it helped him stand out from the crowd. It had certainly worked for him that night in Top Gun where he was very much the honey pot amongst the swarm. Even perching at the bar was part of his performance.

“I don’t like to approach a woman, I like to remain aloof”, he said. I think it gives you an air of mystery amongst the women in bars in Asia.”

“Really” I said, surprised at the confidence of this man with the thinning hair, premature paunch and slightly crooked, bucked teeth. I had to admire the fact that he confidently worked his strengths. And to be fair those disarming boyish, English looks surely gave him something that the ladies of Asia only ever saw in Hugh Grant and Mr. Bean movies. Simon was also very easy to talk with and it surprised me just how well we seemed to get along. I also had to admire a guy in his early 20’s who had come to Asia, alone, and had lasted almost a decade carving out a career and what I imagined a decent income for himself. Salesman or not, I kind of liked the guy. I didn’t trust him, but I did like him. And he was proving to be a pretty good drinking partner.

When the crowd in Loewy’s thinned out at around one o’clock, we decided that the night was still young enough for a few more – but not in Blok M. Simon was as new to the city as I was and hadn’t yet been to Kemang, so I decided to take him to EP. I figured it would be his kind of place.


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