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The Fork Bandit

In Indonesia, most people eschew the use of western-style cutlery, preferring to use their right hands to eat. To cutlery culture folks this, with all its splashings, dribblings and spillings is very alarming to behold at first. But one does become used to it, and believe me when I tell you, the Indonesian eating style is a darned sight less alarming to behold than the 2-meter radius fall-out zone of Indians on the nosh. If you’re in any way connected to the Indonesian community, sooner or later you will have to strut your “uncutlered” stuff, and you may even enjoy the odd trip back to your unskilled childhood.

However, in the circles most western expats move in, their friends, the restaurants they go to and most locals they might eat with, will offer a version of western-style cutlery when one is served food. But it won’t take you long to realize that in Indonesia dwells an insidious beast that travels far and wide in the land buggering up forks.

In every house and warung I’ve eaten in that has cutlery, the beast hasn’t left its mark. Pick any of the 3, 4 and 5 star hotels in Jakarta and you will eventually see this entity’s leavings. Even at my favourite hotel in the whole world, the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Majapahit in Surabaya, this fiend has sculpted tines.

The latest word from Singapore is that with the huge numbers of Indonesian ”guest workers” and fugitives from Indonesian “justice”, even Raffles and the Goodwood Park Hotels are being similarly afflicted. Imagine the Special Lunch menu: Fillet mignon, French Wine Sauce and Fork Sculpture, Magic Wine (no corkscrew used).

The problem is costing the hospitality industry so much that there have been extensive studies commissioned throughout the land to ascertain what the problem is. No sensible conclusion can be reached. Kitchen staff say they ordinarily would never use forks at all, but if ever they did need to use them in conjunction with their work or play they would never, ever, use them to prize the lids off jam jars, open soda or beer bottles, tune or repair their Honda Astreas, unscrew rusted-in screws, unstick stuck windows, unblock blocked drains, scrape old grout or mortar from between tiles or bricks, dig small holes in the garden in which to bury their stash, dig big holes with them to for building foundations or swimming pools, pick locks with them, bend them to steal phone calls from phones with anti-call-theft devices, trawl vending machines with them for small change, sharpen them for DIY tattooing, change tires with them, use them in conjunction with a bit of wire as temporary repairs to broken Astrea brake levers or jam them in their Nokias to try and improve signal reception.

So there it is. The mystery remains. There is no human involvement in the destruction of the forks of Indonesia. If we accept that it’s not Yuri/Uri (?) What’s his name, who only performs for cash, that leaves us with having to accept, as do many of the apparently equally perplexed locals, that in this land resides an invisible, but very destructive force that can only be called “The Fork Bandit”.

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