I heard the tone / music from a burger seller passing my house. I asked my sister whether she fancied a burger, and she said yes, so I quickly went out of the house to stop the vendor. The seller use a pedal-powered cart thingy, equipped with a mini stove to cook the meat, a makeshift condiments tray, and a cooler box to keep the vegetables fresh. This person has been selling burgers for almost my entire life. Back when I was in elementary, the price of a burger was Rp. 5,000 or around $0.5 at that time. The price increased in subsequent years, and right now the price is Rp. 15,000 or $1,08.
The price really bugs me. I know $1 is not that much for you guys, but here, the value proposition of the food isn’t the best, given the size of the burger is rather small (for me) and there are other local foods that are more healthy and satiating. Because of this, I don’t think he can sell many burgers every day. Besides, the housing block where I live are populated with either retired or senior university professors and lecturers, whose children are already grown up and move out of the house.
I remember that there used to be many food sellers that offer many kind of foods and snacks. I didn’t have to go to the supermarket to buy snacks, just wait for the seller of the food that I fancied to pass my house.
Sadly, over the years they disappear one by one, and the burger seller is the only one left that still pedal his cart every day at dusk, no matter if it rains or not. It was drizzling when I stopped him, and he didn’t put his rain coat on. This man works a honest job, and I can’t imagine how tiring it is having to pedal the cart every day, navigating between cars and motorcycles while inhaling their exhaust fumes.
I don’t know how much profit he got selling the burgers, given that I never heard that someone stopped him, at least within my earshot. I didn’t dare to ask him about how’s it going, afraid if he had to remember how many burgers he managed to sell in recent time. After I stopped him, he asked me what burgers that I want, given that “everything is still available”. I don’t know if he is married or if he has children, and how does Covid affect his business.
My father often told me that when he was in school, he had to sell fireworks to help his family to earn money. His oldest brother worked at their family’s fabricating shop his entire life to help paid for his younger siblings’ school tuition. During my father’s time as university student, he helped his brother working at the shop, fabricating stuff and fixing cars.
The story from my father is always on my mind every time I see sellers pushing or pedaling their cart. I also often see an old man pushing a cart, selling pottery-based piggy bank products. I mean, how often do people buy that thing? I don’t know the price of that pottery product, but it must be under Rp. 50,000 or $3,59. I wanted to buy his product to help him, but I couldn’t find him when I wanted. But, when I’m not planning to stop or have enough money, I often see him sitting on the sidewalk.
The same thing can also be said for mask sellers offering their products at the shoulder of the road. Most of them sell a variant of the mask made from fabric that isn’t effective in filtering your breath, and the government banned them. They priced the masks as low as Rp. 10,000 or $0,72. But, who buys them, given that it's banned?
Meanwhile, our minister of social affairs was caught doing corruption on stimulus money intended for the people. His monthly salary is around $1,336, but he also received taxpayer-funded healthcare, luxurious official car, bodyguards, and housing facilities. Besides, it’s highly unlikely that his income is solely from the government. When he was caught by our Corruption Eradication Commission, the amount of money he took from the stimulus projects was around $1.2 million. My maid told my mother that instead of receiving the Rp. 600,000 ($43,08) stimulus money, she received Rp. 200,000 ($14,36) or just a third from the original amount.
What kind of monster are you, to have the heart robbing the people that need the money the most, while living luxuriously. Many people call for the minister (and other people caught doing corruption) to be executed, but it’s highly improbable that the government is brave enough to do that.
That person is now replaced with my former city major. She is one of the (if not the only) best major in the history of Surabaya, and she works full steam after she was appointed. I hope she can hold her position in the cabinet until the end of this presidential term.
I don't even know why did I write this. I just wanted to express my feeling and frustration about this condition and injustice.