The Manggarai train station is one of the biggest in the city, welcoming thousands of Jakarta workers everyday. This is where Rasman, 40, comes every morning at 5 a.m. for his job as the station’s toilet attendant.
The father of three has guarded the public toilets for two years now, all the while witnessing Jakarta’s chaotic rush hour as busy commuters try to get to work on time.
Whether observing the politeness of travelers, debunking stories about ghosts on the train or advising when the station is busiest, he knows Jakarta and its workers from a bird’s — or in this case, a toilet’s — eye perspective.
How are working Jakartans on a daily basis?
They’re quite pleasant people. Most of them are well-mannered and polite.
Do people go to the toilet and not pay, and if so what do you do?
It doesn’t matter; I’m here because I’m assigned to guard the toilet, not to ask for money. This is basically a free toilet. If people give, then I receive open-heartedly, but the station pays us.
If this is a free toilet, why is there a tip box to collect money?
This is just so I can buy cleaning equipment. I only need about [Rp] 5,000 to 10,000 [50 cents to $1] at most.
Do you clean the toilets too?
Yes. The cost for this is actually also provided by PJKA [the station]. They also monitor cleanliness levels, but recently they haven’t been able to check.
How much do you receive from tips in a day?
Probably around Rp 20,000, but we workers receive a fixed pay from the station. This way we don’t have to depend on the passengers. What’s important is to supervise the place, keep it clean and as long as there are no complaints, everything will be fine.
How is the station day-to-day, and when is it most crowded?
It’s usually crowded during normal work hours when people are going to and from their workplace, which begins at about 7 a.m. and lasts until 8 p.m.
The train station wouldn’t be as crowded on weekends, but do you still have to work?
Yes, of course. Usually it’s not as crowded on weekends since people don’t go to work. Weekends are more relaxed.
Do you ever get bored, dissatisfied, or even grossed out when guarding the toilet?
[Laughs] Well this is my job; I have to do it regardless. I come from a low-class background, so what else do you expect?
So you would arrive at the station at 5 a.m., and then what do you do?
I usually come and stay until one, have a break, and then trade shifts where another person will continue to guard the toilet for the day. After that, I might go to the parking lot to park vehicles. It’s not bad. I can get about [Rp] 30,000, which is more than enough to buy a couple of cigarettes.
Are you and your family originally from here?
I’m from Jakarta. I live nearby with my family. I have three children: a four-year old, one in fourth grade, and an 18-year old who has just graduated. My eldest wants to work first; he doesn’t want to attend college yet. Maybe after he works he could go to college.
The Manggarai station is famous for many events and incidents. A horror movie was even made based on the legend of a haunted carriage from Manggarai. Is there a haunted train?
Those are merely rumors. As for the movie, it’s not true. From the movie we can even see that it doesn’t make sense. Usually economy-class carriages with AC don’t have toilets, but they do in the movie — that doesn’t make sense at all.
The Jakarta gubernatorial elections are coming up next month. Who are you supporting?
I choose the one that’s already up and running [Fauzi Bowo]. If we choose someone new, we’re going to keep starting over. When we already have one that’s working, we continue with what we have.
With new candidates we won’t know what will happen. Take the example, for instance, of education. From elementary school to junior high school, students are provided with free education, and while you have to pay for high school and private schools, we can ask for the government’s compensation and financial aid.
However, if we change our leaders, things like that would not necessarily continue. It’s better to stick with what we’re already familiar with.
What do you wish to see in Jakarta’s future?
I only wish that the city would improve to be better. In terms of its people, they are mostly good people who are polite.
I hope that we continue to advance and carry on with our development now.
Rasman was talking to Misya Christina.