There was a time in my teen life where I was stranded in Indonesia and was forced to seek employment. Did I hear you say, “How the hell did that happen?” Too long of a story, I am sure someday I’ll elaborate. But not today. I want to share with you one of my many interesting experiences to which I came across during my limbo in Jakarta the Summer of ’98. The key word is Planet Hollywood.
I saw an ad on the paper that they are looking for a couple of waitresses. I was staying with a dearest friend of mine Dian at that time and asked if I could email or mail my resume to Planet Hollywood or even drop it off, to which her response was after laughing her ass off “Girl, that’s not how you apply for jobs here”. Not her exact words but pretty close.
So we wake up buck freaking dawn, rode our pretty little Indonesian butts on a bus. I dare not to take the non-air conditioned bus because I was dressed up and didn’t want to sweat it through my outfit on my way there. The average high temperature in Jakarta is 32 degrees Celsius which translate into about 90 degrees Fahrenheit and which to some hot blooded broad like me may not be much but when tightly-packed in a bus without air conditioner, you are asking to come out of there with all kinds of odors from all walks of life. Yes, you can call me high maintenance but only for this instance.
Once arrived, there was a sign pointing to the dark parking ramp. I was hesitant. Where the hell does that lead me? For all I know it could be a black hole. But it’s Planet Hollywood, not a bail bond, it had a reputation. It was early morning and there were already HUNDREDS of people there. Let me repeat, HUNDREDS, and the number continues to increase to close to a thousand as the day go. I put my name down on the list, they hand me a four page-application to fill out and we are expected to just “hang around” until our name got called. Mind you, this is not a closed door setting. We were gathered at the basement parking lot, no chairs, no air conditioner. We were just to either sit on the pavement filled with stains of mostly oil leaks, or god knows what else, and I chose to stand. No one dares to leave. They can’t. If their name gets called and you don’t come up right away, they move on and there goes your dream job.
There were people smoking around me. People chit chatting. No one has headphones. Some were smart and brought playing cards, checkers and dice to kill time. I can bet they’ve done one of these before in the past and have an expectation of how the day is going to run. I, on the other hand, just chilaxing with my dearest friend Dian, making small talk. When she gets bored with my yapping, she would slowly make her way to talk to others. I was too shy to talk to other people, my Indo slang was far from good. If I had started a small talk I could only imagine it would go something like so (in Indonesian):
Stranger: “What’s your name?”
Me: “Dhila, you?”
Stranger: “Jaka, where are you from?”
Me: “Well, that’s ……..sort of a ……general question……….are you asking…….. where I live? ……….because…… I don’t live here………. in Jakarta……….technically……….I live in Des Moines……….Iowa……at least……. that what……. my driver license says……..which I don’t have with me……. to proof it to you…….. No, it’s nowhere…….. in this country………it is United States………you know…….. America……… Or……… are you asking………. my originality……. I was born and……….. grew up……. in Jakarta…..
The dots between the sentences are me thinking up each word translating from English to Indonesia and calculating the proper Indonesian grammar, in my head. I had pictured this sort of interactions and decided to not even try. Because at this rate, this person will totally lose interest (and patience) in what I had to say and causing me an embarrassment as he slowly walks away in a slow motion as I am still trying to come up with the right word.
So I shut down the idea and just started humming to myself. Somehow I barely remembered how the 10 hour day went. Maybe it’s suppressed due to the stress nature of the event. Occasionally my girlfriend Dian will leave and comes back to bring me snacks and lunch.
Did you say lunch and 10 hour day??! Yep. We had been waiting since 8 am. I had a thought of giving up, I think. But then again, what else was I going to do that day? Nothing much really. I probably would just sit in a room at the U.S Embassy after barging in to crowds of protesters with a magazine over my face to cover my identity — even though no one would give two shits about me, but you never know— waiting, to get my name called, but at least I wait in an air conditioned room. But that’s another story for later.
By around 6pm they finally called my name. HALLE-FREAKING-LLUJAH!!! I didn’t say that out loud, just in my head. I was afraid that I would offend the majority of the Islamic crowd. But then again, it’s Planet Hollywood, they serve alcoholic beverages here. Where was I going with that? Nowhere really.
There are three small offices in a row in the air conditioned room. Aaaaahhhh, finally. Each office could only fit a desk and a chair. The desk has piles and piles of stacked papers which bury the interviewer behind them. I was told to go straight to the last office and skipped the two. Weird!
I sat down and talked to the General Manager. He was Caucasian. Very young, perhaps in the early 30’s. Dark brown hair that he keeps adjusting the long bangs to the side. Tall and lanky. Quite handsome. Are you married, sir? He speaks in a very good Indonesian and looked through my application. Then he started speaking English and asked if I were more comfortable speaking in English and from there on the whole conversation was spoken in English.
It was a pleasant conversation, like it should happen in a cafe somewhere, like Starbucks. Like how most Americans meet for interviews, any interviews, not just job interview, at a Starbucks, over a latte and a blueberry scone.
I got a call the next day for a job offer and started my training the following week. Transportation was arranged to pick me up from the house to Planet Hollywood. The driver picks up others on the way and drops us off after our shift. Isn’t that FABULOUS! You won’t see arrangement like this in the U.S. for a waitressing job. I felt like a STAR as I share a bus with other servers, hostesses, cooks, janitors and bus boys.
And then there I was shadowing waitresses to cater to rich, snotty, under-age Indonesian teens who couldn’t tell the difference between a Shirley Temple daiquiri and a Margarita. On stage was a band, playing Jazz, loudly. There are a lot of times where I would get distracted watching whatever fabulous band playing that day and those are the times where the shift manager will tap me on the shoulder and gives me the stink-eye.
I tried Google-ing Planet Hollywood in Jakarta in hopes to find photos. And here’s what I got. It’s not as glamorous as one would imagine if you don’t know anything about “places to hang out” in Jakarta.
The menu, I think, changes overtime. The Shirley Temple drink was no longer there. It has been exchanged with other concoctions with names of current movies. So either, they have a very creative mixologist whose sole purpose is to come out with a new drink every time a new movie comes out or it is the same bloody old concoctions with a different movie or movie star names. Maybe the Shirley Temple then is now called Dakota Fanning. I don’t know.
Either way I did not complete my one week training. A knight showed up on a white horse all glimmery and swooped me up from the kitchen as the horse slowly turned into a Pegasus and away we flew to the clouds (translation: a call came from Jeff, he’s UPS-ing a one-way ticket home from Jakarta to Des Moines, Iowa). And we live happily ever after since.