Friday, April 18, 2008

The Things You See On the Road

Most mornings I take a walk around our big apartment complex. It isn't a marathon, but it is a nice little walk. Along the way I often see some odd little things, and I thought I'd do a little writing about it.

Parking, must like the general traffic is a bit of a mess around here. I'm sure somewhere there are like big parking lots, and suchlike, but I've ever seen them. Mostly you just see cars parked about everywhere. Shanghai actually does a great job of making bike lanes for the legions of two-wheeled people, but of course lots of the cars wind up parking there. Sidewalks too for that matter.

Anyways, the other day I am out on my walk and as usual there is a bit van parked on the sidewalk and I do the walk-around away from the street. On the sidewalk, next to the van is a big puddle of liquid. I look for a second to see what it, it's not that...yep it is.


Gross. You can tell by where it is that they van guy parked it, then stood next to the van to hide himself from traffic and let it flow. Now on my walks I often see public urinators. It isn't all that uncommon to see a taxi driver pull of the side of the road and go in the bushes. Their cab drivers so they spend their days in a car not near a bathroom, so I figure 'whatever' and never pay them much mind. But they go in the bushes. Not on the sidewalk.

Everyday I see the same group of workers messing with the sidewalks. The sidewalks are not straight concrete, but made up of these little 10 inch x 10 inch bricks. Next to the sidewalk, away from the road and in between the walls to our complex are various shrubs and flowers and grasses. Periodically around the sidewalk are trees too.

These workers are always doing something around there. Sometimes they are pulling weeds. Once they dug a little trench around the shrubs. Most often they are taking a little puddy knives and cleaning out the gunk between the individual bricks.

I have the most manicured sidewalks I have ever seen. None of the work they do really needs to be done, but there they are ever single day. That's actually slightly common in China. Whenever you go to a market or a restaurant or any store really it will always be over staffed. I've seen small kiosks in the mall filled with half a dozen workers.

At the corner market there are always 6 or more people working even though there really isn't much to do. Half of them sit around yacking to each other. I always assume it is some sort of government thing to make companies over hire. Like the population is so enormous that companies are asked to hire more people than they need so the unemployment rates won't be so high. Sometimes it is annoying because there are too many workers and they get in the way, but I think I'll take that over having the stores under staffed like you see so often in the States.

A few weeks ago on my walk I nearly saw an accident. I was next to a two lane highway that is quite heavily trafficked. The road has a very large shoulder where the buses pull off to make their pick ups, and on this road where bikers ride.

One of the buses pulled over to make a stop and then jammed itself back into traffic. Like I said it is a busy road and there were a couple of taxis speeding down the road just behind the bus. This bus, full of people and assuredly not a fast vehicle pulls right out in front of the taxis nearly taking them out. The first taxi instead of jamming his breaks, pulls to the left into oncoming traffic. Cars coming that way have to fling to the side of the road to not get hit.

Taxi #1 realizes the oncoming traffic is going to hit him so he then jams his breaks and slings behind the bus. Taxi #2 takes this moment to pass the first taxi and the bus, caring not that the oncoming traffic is there because they had moved out of the way of taxi #1.

The bus, taxis and oncoming traffic then all kept moving like nothing happened. All of this happened in about 5 seconds. It is such a typical thing that I don't think anyone else noticed. That's the way it is around here. People do crazy/stupid things so often that it is common place. Cab drivers are freaking race car drivers. They speed, they move in and out of traffic like mad, they jam the break and rev the engine simultaneously.

They make it work because everyone is used to it. I think if a Shanghai taxi driver moved to the States he'd either rule the world or immediately die from an accident. We just wouldn't know what to do with them.

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