I believe there is a strong argument for the ‘cooling off period’ law when people want to buy guns. Instead of flipping out completely and running to the nearest gun shop in order to buy the ultimate argument winner, people are forced to calm down and make rational decisions before they blow each other’s brains out. Of course, some people can stay angry for a very long time so this is not the perfect system of governance, but I’m sure it has prevented more than one ‘crime of passion’, and probably a ‘crime of parking place’ or two in the places where the law exists.
I believe there should also be a mandatory ‘sobering up period’ law before people clearly under the influence of alcohol can be allowed to buy anything (or go home with anyone). Case in point, one Friday afternoon in 1992, three friends of mine and I were walking through a mall in Jakarta when we happened upon a display of Yamaha motorcycles. It was pay day, we had a lot of cash in our pockets and we had just left the pub after an approximately ten-course liquid lunch, so the shiny new motorbikes caught our eyes. Long story short, 30 minutes later we had handed over the cash, signed some papers, agreed some kind of deal with a handshake and staggered away.
After we had waved bye-bye to the beaming salesman, we decided to stop at another bar and have another quick drink to celebrate our purchases. Of course, we were well past the point of no return by this time, so it was actually around 2am before we took the magic carpet ride home to the house we shared in Tomang. We all made it to our beds and fell into comatose sleep, taking comfort in the knowledge that the next day was Saturday so we didn’t need to get up for work.
At 9am the following morning, I woke up to see my housemate Tony standing at the end of my bed wearing nothing but his underpants. My head was pounding, my vision was blurred and for a moment I thought he was sleepwalking, but my brain eventually started to extract a few words from the grunting noises he was making. “Truck… F***ing motorbikes…” I thought he was complaining about traffic noise. I concentrated on Tony’s face as hard as I could and tried to sharpen my focus. I tried hard to process what he was saying as he grunted louder and louder while pointing at the window, and after a while I realised with a start what he was actually saying. I jumped out of bed to look for myself, and sure enough, outside the house there was a truck with four f***ing motorbikes on it. Memories of the previous day came flooding back. Oh sh*t. What had we done?
After we had signed for the delivery, we stood in the driveway in our dressing gowns staring silently at four brand new and identical black, yellow and orange Yamaha YT115s. They were a hell of a lot smaller than they had appeared the day before in the mall, and they were not nearly as cool as they had seemed when we had sat on them, leaning left and right and making silly motorbike noises while enthusiastically planning motorbike camping trips across the archipelago. My friend Mark broke the silence. “Do you think I can ride here without a license?” The rest of us shrugged and muttered unintelligibly. Dave chipped in with a relevant question. “Which one is mine?” We all shrugged and muttered again. Tony then spoke very seriously, putting an immediate stop to all the shrugging and mumbling and inducing hysterical laughter. “How the f*** do you drive one of these f***ing things anyway?” He’d never driven a motorbike before in his life.
A mandatory sobering up period of at least 24 hours would definitely have saved us two million Rupiah each – in those days about a thousand dollars and almost an entire month’s salary!