Grooming in Public, Jakarta Style

Remember my first post on grooming in public? Many of you responded by sharing what you considered as crossing the line in term of primping out in the open, and we surely had fun admitting that people watching is one of our favorite activities! I wrote that article last year when I was living in the US. Now I’m back for good to our beloved Jakarta, I want to once again shared with you my observation of grooming in public, Jakarta style.

What I observed here in public transportation in Jakarta so far are nothing as hilarious as my experience in the previous post. I live out in the suburb and usually take a shuttle bus from my housing complex to my office in south Jakarta. Since the bus leaves early, normally I’ll just continue sleeping in the bus. One time I got late to the bus and didn’t get any seat except for the bangku tempel close to the driver. It was impossible to sleep while sitting uncomfortably on that teeny weeny stool, and the lady sitting near me started the conversation. After a little chit-chat, she said that she’ll take a little nap, which was OK with me. But then she reached in her handbag, and got out a big hair roller, rolled her bangs in it then went to sleep. It was kind of hilarious to see someone fully dressed in work attire, full makeup, with a huge hair roller on her temple. In my mind I associated hair rollers with daster and flip flops, as a preparation for going out but not something that you want to be seen in public with. By the time we almost reached the designation, she took off the hair roller and casually combing her bangs with a hair brush. I don’t know her name, we’re just saying hi and bye every time we meet on the shuttle but in my head she’ll always be the ‘hair roller lady’.

Later I found that my neighbor is not the only ‘hair roller lady’ around. I often see ladies driving alone on with hair full of rollers, trying to put on one article of make up after another every time the traffic stopped at Tol Jagorawi (which is often, especially near Taman Mini and UKI toll gates). I know the car is a private property, but if the windows are see through, whatever you do is visibleĀ  to the public. Navigating the crowded lanes of Jagorawi with your head full of hair rollers, singing along to the radio while trying to put on make ups are too much activities to be done in one sitting.

But I have to admit that I too, sometimes guilty of grooming in public. On occasions where people sitting next to me in the bus were sleeping, I’ll quietly open my make up case and do my whole make up in the bus. The traffic gives me enough unmoving time even to put on eye shadows and mascara. But I wasn’t driving, so my action won’t present major danger to myself (except the risk of poking my eyes with mascara) or other drivers around me.

While hair roller and putting make up while singing and driving are a bit funny, I had experienced grooming goes wrong that I found offensive. Few months ago, in the middle of a Sunday service, I heard the sound of nail clipper. I immediately turned around to find the source of the sound, and I saw a young mom clipping the nails of her sleeping son. I honestly didn’t know what to say (and really, there’s nothing you can say in the middle of a sermon to someone sitting 2 rows down from you). Some of you shared that you considered nail clipping as an absolute no-no to do in public, and to do that at Church in the middle of a sermon is downright disrespectful. I think she got enough angry stares from people sitting near to her, because after that she never does it again.

In general, I think Jakartans are not big on grooming in public. Maybe we still have the values instilled by our mothers that we have to look presentable once we step out of the door. To conclude my observations so far: hair roller in public is funny, but nail clipping especially at the place of worship is gross and just plain wrong. Let’s see, maybe if I don’t spend too much time sleeping during my commute time, I can add more observations to this article :)

*Pictures taken from and