I had more than a couple of bumps in the Super Carry. After one such collision, I needed an auto body repair shop. Maybe it was the accident where I looked down because I felt something on my leg, which turned out to be a huge cockroach crawling up it. That momentary loss of attention to the road caused me to rear-end the car in front of me. Or, maybe it was when the city minibus transport didn’t stop while crossing a major thoroughfare and T-boned me. Whatever the case, I asked my friends where to find a repair shop, and they told me there was one on Gunung Batu Street. So, I drove my damaged car there, looked back and forth, and only found one that said “Ketok Magic," which means, “Magic Dent Repair.” I had seen these all over the island of Java, and assumed the “magic” referred to their great work. Boy, was I ever wrong.
The place was surrounded by an eight-foot corrugated aluminum partition. I rang the bell, they opened the gate, negotiated the repair, and then told me to come back in four hours. Four hours? They quickly ushered me away and resealed the eight-foot impermeable gate. The price was less than half of what I expected to pay. Pleased, I shook off the strangeness of the encounter and went back to my friends to thank them for the suggestion. But when I told them I had taken it to the Ketok Magic shop, their jaws dropped in horror.
“Gerrit, don’t you know they use black magic to repair cars? It's said that if you repair a car there, you will get in a worse accident later.” The conversation went on and on, explaining that this type of repair originated in Blitar, East Java. “You’ll never hear a sound. No pounding, no pulling, no electrical tools. Just silence. They do it all by black magic. They never let you inside, and they never let you see what they’re doing.” The more I heard, and remembering the strangeness of the negotiation encounter, the more I became freaked out. Mysterious and obscure things happen in Indonesia that are attributed to the supernatural. What was I thinking? Four hours to repair the aftermath of an auto accident? Red flags should have been flying in my face.
The shop had already had my car for over two hours, and I realized that by the time I got back there, it would probably be finished. Still, I took off, not really afraid, but definitely freaked out.
I arrived only to find everything was sealed up—as before. And silent. Other than the passing cars along the main road, I couldn’t hear a thing. I’m six-foot-four (195cm), but that wasn’t tall enough to help me see over the top of the fence. So, I listened again. Still, no sound of pounding, voices of workers, or anything. Finding a small rusted hole in the aluminum fence’s sheeting, I crouched low and peered into a yard with a building, bare-dirt grounds, and a few small leafless trees.
Then, something banged against the aluminum fence right where I was standing, sending me reeling backwards in alarm. It was a LOUD bang. Had someone thrown a rock? It would have had to be a large one. Maybe it was just a coincidence. I crept back toward the fence again, my heart throbbing painfully in my chest. Had I done something wrong or violated some unknown law? I had been told it was taboo to try and sneak a peek into a Ketok Magic shop. Peering through the hole again, I searched for evidence of a rock or anyone that might have thrown one. Nothing. A second sharp bang hit the fence. No angry person telling me to back away from the fence, no scary demons or ghosts passing through it. Just an ear-drum-splitting bang.
Have you ever seen videos of a curious animal trying to sniff something out but jumping backward in timidity, circling the object again and again to discover what the unknown object is but fearing it enough to keep from getting close? I was that stupid curious foreigner, circling the fence to find out what really goes on inside of a Ketok Magic shop. And I was rattled enough to walk away. Yup, I walked away, pretending nothing had ever happened. Had anyone seen me? Who knows?
Half an hour later, I walked up to the main gate, rang the doorbell, and paid for my car. It looked pretty good. I asked them if they really used magic. The man cast a wry “guess for yourself” smile, and never answered.
Today, before writing this, I was surfing the internet and found an article about “Paintless Dent Repair,” a technology that’s been around since the 1930s. (Yes, I looked at Wikipedia, and if you’re honest, you do too!) The pictures look pretty much what my car looked like after the Ketok Magic repair.
Did the shop really repair the car by magic? Did I get in another accident after that one? The second question is easier to answer than the first: Unfortunately, yes. As for the first question, all I know is that the people in that Ketok Magic shop must have had a good laugh about throwing those rocks and seeing the white foreigner lose his nerve.