I’ve mastered a few little techniques and individual station strategies to survive the Shanghai metro. These are especially important during the dreaded rush hour. Fortunately I’m done earlier than the majority of people so I only have to deal with the rush in the morning commute. It’s still a pretty awful way to start a day though.
Anyways, to get to work I have to switch from Line 7 to Line 4 at the Dong An Lu station. I’ve discovered that there tends to be fewer people waiting to board the train as well as already on the train at the front and end carriages of the train. At the Dong An Lu station there is an awful restroom that stinks to high heaven which people have to wait in front of in order to board the front of the train. The combo of distance walked from the transfer stairs plus the stench keeps people away. I deal with it because I feel it’s better than being pushed and shoved into a tiny cramped space with a bunch of rude fools .
The restrooms are very small and usually the doors are left open. This was the case today. I board the train and while I’m waiting for the train doors to shut so we can be on our way, a woman in her early 20s emerges from her stall (the only stall). She is greeted by an old lady who stands directly in her way and says in a nails on chalkboard kind of voice, “You’re too slow!!!!” ( In Chinese of course). The younger woman just looks at the lady with a look of scorn and disdain and slips past the miserable old hag. The metro door slides shut and I’m laughing.
What a bitch! What is the point of being so rude and saying that? Accept it, and use the available facilities. If I found myself in that situation , I would probably also slip right past the jerk and not say a word either. The temptation to exclaim “OOOOH DIARRHEA” and slip back into the stall to make the cranky one wait for a good 10 , 15 minutes extra does arise though , especially if I have a good book 🙂 . Careful people , you reap what you sow!
The blossoming of spring’s great weather and the move closer to work has brought me into the world of commuting by bike. I used to zoom all over campus back at Kent State and now I do the same in Shanghai.
It’s about a 20 minute ride or so to get to work and now living in the French concession I have a ton of different bars/cafes/cool places to go within a 15/20 minute ride (many are much closer).
Riding a bike in a city like Shanghai takes a certain level of concentration , awareness, and an inner-Zen state to keep from going insane. Cars , motorbikes, pedestrians, and other bicycles zoom by at all points. People step out onto the curb without looking , riders come the wrong way right at you down a one way bike lane , motorbikes race by on the sidewalks , and the traffic rules are generally ignored. At all times the air is thick with the honking of horns indicating imminent death.
Everyday , it seems, I witness a minor clash , small collision , bump , tap , etc. In my two years of being a pedestrian here I have born witness to a few more severe crashes. I’m waiting for it to happen to me.
Rule #1 for staying alive in traffic is Assume everyone around you is a complete idiot and will not hesitate to cut across 4 lanes of bike traffic without even looking . Assume that everyone is capable of stopping right in front of you in the middle of the bike with no indication and will then sit there and block everyone for no reason at anytime.
If you expect the absolute insane to happen at any time you are on the road to survival.
Yesterday’s moment of the day occurred at an intersection of Sinan Rd and JianGuo Xi Lu.
I was pedaling slowly along approaching the intersection. An older lady was riding in front of me. She had a cute little girl on the back of the bike and I was laughing at the little girl. She was looking all around in amazement and smiling. I was just thinking of how cute she was while they stopped at the crossing ahead. All of a sudden a guy on an electric china post bike accelerated down the sidewalk onto the road and ran right into the side of the lady’s bike. ( She was in the middle of the zebra lines). It wasn’t a hard crash and the look of shock on her face was priceless. In slow motion she lost her balance and gracefully tipped over. She managed to get a foot on the ground so the bike didn’t completely smash to the ground. The lady wasn’t hurt at all and the little girl stoically took it in silence. A few people rush over to grab the little girl and make sure the lady was ok. The guy on the electric bike said sorry the best he could and he was trying to keep the laughter off his face. The people who rushed over to help were also trying very hard not to bust out laughing. The only person who didn’t find it amusing was the bike rider herself. The helpful pedestrians pointed out that she was indeed in the crossing for the traffic from the other direction.
Living in China can have a lot of “What the Heck?!?” moments . Today’s moment was especially hilarious. I was covering some classes for my friend at a teaching center this morning and on my bike ride to work at 8:30 while waiting for the traffic light to turn green I encountered this moment : One guy in a construction workers hat is holding a large live snapping turtle neatly tied up. He was swinging the turtle by the rope and another guy was trying to settle a price for the turtle. The conversation went something like this (although in Chinese) ”
Buyer :50 rmb for one turtle?!? Are you crazy ? Usually I pay 30 for a turtle this size.
Seller: No way , this is a great turtle. 50rmb or go.
Buyer: C’mon give it a little cheaper!
At this point the light turned green and I was swept away in the sea of bicycles.