Every now and again I get off of work early enough that there is still massive amounts of traffic on Tianmushan road, a major boulevard that runs east and west along the south end of the Xixi wetlands and leads from the terrible suburbs where I work to Hangzhou proper. As I was cycling home the other day I began to hear an ambulance coming in from behind me, and even though I knew that I was in no way obstructing the way of this ambulance, the diligent citizen in me still felt the need to pull over. I did this just as I reached a major intersection that demarcates the east end of the Xixi wetlands.
But by the time the ambulance reached this intersection, the traffic light had changed. Traffic in my direction (and the ambulance’s direction) now had a red light. Now in just about every other country I have seen an ambulance would not stop at a red light, but just plow on through with the confidence that the social contract dictates a suspension of the normal traffic rules, in that the person who is in the ambulance has a special urgency that necessitates the suspension of these rules. I was fully expecting things to be the same in China, because the notion that a person in an ambulance may have some kind of hurry seemed to me like some kind of universal.
A for effort. The ambulance tried. I surpassed the waiting line at then intersection and got right into the thick of things. Where it stopped, and waited for a lull in traffic. The car’s of the intersecting traffic were having none of this uppity ambulance, who would have to wait its turn. After all, they had the green light, so why should they stop? I bet each and every one of those drivers had to take a really bad shit, and no one wants to stop when they have to do that. Clearly, the urgency of the other cars far surpassed whatever urgency the ambulance may or may not have had. Right?
These are the ‘Well, China really isn’t for me’ moments of my life here. Did any of those people bother to consider how they would want other people to react if they were the poor schlep in the ambulance? I guess not.
I thought about leaving, right then and there. Home could be with mom, in a European economy that seems to be circling the drain, or to where Dad is, where an orange megalomaniac has recently taken over. I felt slightly trapped.
But it is clear that it is time to move on.