Niki Samianus, says the placard on the dashboard.
“Niki Samianus. That sounds like a Baltic rock star.” He smiles charitably, as he does for tourists saying silly things – maybe he’s unfamiliar with the Baltics, and he may not know what a rock star is, even though he is one.
Niki is from the island of Flores, Indonesia, not Lithuania, coming to Bali to find opportunity that is here because of tourism, by driving a Bluebird Taxi.
You’ll want to take Bluebird Taxis when you come to Bali. They’re clean, their drivers have change, and they’ll use the untampered-with meters without prodding, every time. The driving-foreigners-around scene is hyper-competitive and because of their affiliation, Bluebird drivers have a much easier time getting fares (and possibly, making more money) than the guys working for less-organized companies or freelancing. The freelancers stay in business, tenuously as they do, because even two or three good negotiated fares a day might pay for gas, the car and living expenses and because this game is one where the outcome is greatly affected by a driver’s ‘level of commitment’. As a foreigner here I’m accosted by more slowing/horn beeping/rubbernecking from freelance taxi drivers than a supermodel in New York City (I imagine).
Clearly if there is enough competition relative to available opportunity in a given labor market (e.g. taxi driving in Bali), then differentiating yourself as a franchise through an established brand, or outright employment, is a much easier way to go than freelancing. I’ll bet that there is not one taxi driver in Bali who wouldn’t drive for Bluebird if he could, because Indonesia is a country where people would generally prefer simple security to ‘making it big’. Actually for Niki, coming from elsewhere, this job has to be a major victory, suggesting that sometimes earning a wage is the best way to wage one’s freedom. The islands east of Bali are like a step back in time in many ways, and I’m sure that Niki has one hell of an escape story.
But before you accept a psychology of being grateful over expecting better things of you and your life, I’d take a hard look at your situation, and ask if it is as laden with economic hardship as it seems (a la Niki’s life, back in Flores) before accepting employment as the road to More. And how would you know if you are settling beneath your potential, or engaged in activity and goals worthy of your capacities?
If it doesn’t feel like victory, it probably isn’t.