Friday, June 29, 2012

The Beijing Metro

Our driver, Mr Jing Cha

I've just got off a sleeper train from Shanghai where I only slept a total of three hours thanks to gabby Dutch girls and a Chinese roommate who complained about case studies in his sleep. Now my uncle, Julius and I have to take the metro during morning rush hour to meet our driver at a McDonald's across town, who will drive us to the Great Wall and the Summer Palace.  

We descend into the belly of metro and wait on the platform for a train. When the first train pulls up, the three of us look at each other wide-eyed and shake our heads. I have never seen a train so packed full of people before. We decide to wait for the next one, but the next one is even worse. We don't have time to waste, so we force our way in like rugby players trying to gain ground. I hear some ow!s and ai!s and we're in! Fortunately we are only carrying backpacks and not luggage.  

Trying to hide my discomfort in the Beijing metro

I'm squashed up against some strangers thinking this can't possibly get any worse. Whenever you are tempted to think "this can't possibly get any worse," don't! Because it can always get worse, because at the next stop, it does. When the doors open, two big guys dive in on top of everybody and I hear some crunching and more ow!s and ai!s.

Hold Tight, Hold Tight!

We ride along in agony for a few more stops until we have to change to another line. At this point I learn that the only thing harder than getting into the train is getting out of it. You really have to fight tooth and nail and slam your way through some people until you break free! But this feeling of freedom is premature, because we aren't free at all. We are cattle being led to the slaughter. 

My uncle and I, being herded toward the platform

We are herded down some stairs, around a corner and then up stairs and around another corner at a snails pace until we finally reach the platform and.... where'd everybody go? The platform is completely empty. Where all the people have disappeared to will remain a mystery of the Beijing metro. 

The worst part is past us now. The other metro line is not as busy, and we get on the train without a problem. My uncle and Julius feign disappointment, and complain about how boring it is now that the train is empty. We arrive at our destination and find the McDonald's with ease.

Our driver is not there yet, but out of the corner of my eye I see a familiar bright blue polo shirt coming toward me. The man is wearing glasses and a goofy smile.  

"Hello!" I greet him.

My uncle and Julius turn around, assuming I'm greeting the driver. My uncle's jaw drops when he recognizes our Chinese roommate from the sleeper train. Then it dawns on me. We're all the way across town and we have run into the same guy! 

"If we ever had a chance to win the lottery, our odds have been wasted on running into this guy in Beijing!" My uncle bemoans with a hint of fascination. 

Our driver appears shortly thereafter, and the first thing I notice is that his earlobes are very jiggly. He has a throaty smoker's laugh that sounds like Jabba the Hut, dyed jet black hair and tanned leathery skin. On top of all this, he's dressed up in a Jing Cha policeman uniform. 

We pile into his car, eager to depart for the Great Wall of China. He and my uncle are arguing in Chinese and I'm trying to avoid looking at the back of the seat in front of me because there are some dried boogers encrusted in the fabric. 

There's so much traffic in downtown Beijing that in an effort to minimize cars on the road, they only let you drive your car a few days a week, for example Monday, Wednesday and Friday. In order to remedy this restriction, people buy a second car and register it for Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. The driver is claiming we never told him we wanted to go to the Summer Palace, and that he should have driven a different car. I can tell it's going to be a looong day.  

Traffic in Beijing

1 comment:

  1. So funny, thanks for the post Kelly! We had some similar metro blues in Beijing, but not as bad as yours. I was wondering why the only people you see on the metro on in their 20's and 30's and Sergio said its survival of the fittest, the older people tried and didn't survive!