Man, I sure do like to complain a lot. But I should at least try to balance it out just a hair by talking about some of the things I like about China.
I am a commuter cyclist here in China. And I like being one. But sometimes the weather just does not permit, and I have to take the bus to work. And the buses here are magical.
In some respects, I was ready for this. Back in early 2009 I was living in DC for a bit while I unfucked my life, and would occasionally go up to NYC to hang out with some folk I knew up there. The most affordable way to do this was via Chinabus – Chinatown to Chinatown for $30USD round trip. The lunch you got your self afterwards to settle your stomach was guaranteed to be more expensive then the trip itself. I remember this one time it began snowing right as I got on the bus. But not some kind of light snow; it really started to come fucking down. I was expecting the bus driver to get on and tell me (and the other passenger – it was 11pm on a weeknight) to get lost. Nope. The driver flicked a cigarette into the gutter, shut the door, and began driving.
I didn’t think I was going to make it. The driver considered how the weather would effect risk, and came to the conclusion that there was no absolutely no risk of a traffic cop giving him a ticket in this weather. He upped his speed to whatever maximum the vehicle could stand and firmly planted a brick on the gas pedal. We swerved about so constantly that I began prepping goodbye text messages that I could easily send one I knew the moment had arrived. At one point banked so hard that I was convinced the bus was on only two wheels.
That’s pretty much how the buses are here, only they are stuck in gridlock traffic. It’s a sight to behold, like th emix of a monster truck rally and Nascar.
I imagine that the first and only question asked if you want to become a Chinese bus driver is “What do you think about human life?” and the only acceptable answer to this question is “Well, if I may be frank I’ve never actually stopped and considered it.” The bus drivers here are paid to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible, and whether or not you are still healthy at the end of the process is certainly not their concern. They care only about maximizing speed while minimizing distance to point B. They are going to speed up as urgently as possible and brake on a dime. Heavy traffic? They are going to be braking so often and so hard that you are going to unconditionally headbang, whether you like to or not. You’ll be slamming into strangers, just because.
What does this mean for you, the commuter? Well, that depends. Should you be fortunate enough to be sitting down, stay seated, and don’t even give that seat up for the crippled pregnant widowed elderly war veteran. If you are standing up, hang on. Always. Never stop hanging on. Move about the bus as you moved on your kindergarten jungle gym; always with a firm hand clinging to a metal bar as you swing from place to place. And god help you if it is raining when you are on the bus (and as I have mentioned, it almost always is when I am on the bus) because that floor is going to be a slippery pool, and as easy to walk on as an oil spill. This means that you should plan your exit, because the bus driver isn’t killing time at bus stops. When those doors open, get off, because they are not staying open too long if the driver can help it. He’s got places to be.