by Diana Darling
It might be a table for giants, this big rough concrete thing poised high above one of Ubud’s little rivers, up the street from us on Jalan Suweta. People are already putting offerings there, the way the women of our household put offerings on the new trash bin—because it’s there. It’s supposed to be a bridge. But you can’t get onto or off it unless you’re a giant, because neither end touches land. And even if the bridge were long enough, the ends would be too high above the land to get onto it, unless they built stairs.
This curiosity is supposed to solve Ubud’s traffic problems. We don’t know anything for certain, of course—such things are in the hands of our superiors—but rumour says that the plan was for a circuit of one-way traffic up Jalan Suweta, across to Banjar Taman, and down through Taman to Ubud’s main street. Those of us who live on Jalan Suweta have been wondering how much harder life would be for us if we couldn’t just get in the car and go into town. Now we may never know.
No one knows why the bridge is incomplete and the wrong size. There are plenty of rumours, though.
One of them says that the surveyors couldn’t count: they recommended a bridge of 38 meters, when in fact it needs 45.
Another rumour says that the people who did the budget couldn’t count: they gave the contractor enough money for only 38 meters instead of 45. According to several sources, the contractor doesn’t see what the problem is.
“They ordered a bridge 38 meters long,” says the contractor, blinking innocently. “That’s what we built. It’s not our fault if you can’t get on or off it. Why don’t you talk to the client?
It’s interesting to speculate what went wrong.
Maybe one of the street cleaners thought that if traffic flowed smoothly, drivers would keep going until Banjar Taman and stop parking on Jalan Suweta and throwing their empty noodle cups out the window, making the Jalan Suweta street cleaners redundant.
Maybe someone from the parking squad on Jalan Suweta was afraid of losing his job standing in the sun while cars take turns crawling up and down the street, so he spread rumours that any bridge longer than 38 meters would offend the river spirits and make the tourists stop coming to Ubud.
Maybe the people who ordered the bridge didn’t have enough money for 45 meters and thought 38 meters would be enough to show that they were making an effort.
Maybe the people who ordered the bridge aren’t aware that there’s anything wrong, and they’re just waiting for a good day to inaugurate it—and if drivers can’t use the bridge, they should undertake some introspection.
Maybe no one ordered the bridge and it was really built by outsiders envious of Ubud’s success, in a foolish attempt to make the superiors look incompetent.
Or maybe it’s another stupid art installation and the whole idea of fixing the traffic problem was just a rumour.