Posted by: Lotus Light | July 5, 2011

A Traffic High!

Bus stop...


I was reading the other day about people who do exciting things like free-falling from a plane to fulfil their need for adrenalin.   Adrenalin junkies – come to China!  There is no need for the expensive equipment, lessons and hire of aeroplanes. China is the easiest, cheapest place to get your fill of that heady feeling, that heart stopping rush of excitement that makes life worth living.  How can we do this?  It is so easy – just cross any road in China!

Roads in China are not for the weak-kneed.  When I first arrived, I would stand beside the road, waiting for other people to come along, so that I could cross in a group.  I would position myself as far as possible away from the traffic, reasoning I would be a little protected.  When we reached the centre line, I would slip to the other side of the group.

I am now past that stage and will boldly cross the road by myself.  The trick is to cross one lane at a time.  Walk confidently across the first lane, stand calmly on the white line between lanes, tucking the derriere in as tightly as possible, hoping that the driver has taken into account that foreign feet are longer than Chinese ones, and miss those precious toes of yours.  Repeat the process.

In my plan to gain a driving license here, I had a friend translate the road rules for me, and you will be stunned to know that they are almost exactly the same as the ones at home.  However, the application of the rules is nowhere near similar!  Pedestrian crossings are NOT safe places for pedestrians, but often targets for vehicles.  I wonder how many points running over a foreigner gains the drivers in the great ‘pedestrian elimination competition’? Red lights are pretty, and create beauty for the journey.

The lane markings are merely decorative here; I am sure they were developed as an unemployment alleviation program.  Cars, buses, trucks will happily slip across the double centre lines, in the face of on-coming traffic, just to zoom a few places ahead in the line-up.  The lanes magically widen to allow them to slip through, usually unscathed.

Staying within the lanes - two way road, drivers!

The first tool that any driver learns to use is the horn.  And there is a wonderful language in horn use – a symphony of symbolism.  Horns can advise cars 500 meters away that you will be coming past them sometime soon, they warn cars turning that you are not going to wait, or to tell cars crossing the road that you will be coming through anyway. There are gentle taps to hurry the car ahead of you along, a strident beep to tell the slow car in the fast lane NOT to change lanes because you are going to pass on the inside; and the masterpiece of horn music – the traffic jam.  Drivers orchestrate their horn blowing as a way of passing time, of creating rhythm and comradeship in the face of frustration.

Then there is my favourite horn use – the one big vehicles use for the 3-wheel push-bike taxis.  This is done with finesse.  First, the bus drives to within 2 meters of the hapless taxi and even more helpless passengers, trapped in the back.  Then, the driver switches from his polite city horn to the earsplitting fog horn and blows a loooooong blast.  The whole taxi shudders with the strength of it.  The passengers hunch their shoulders, covering their ears in a vain attempt to protect themselves from the industrial strength decibels.  This has the capacity to partially deafen the passenger for a week – I know from sad experience.

So, if you feel that your life is lacking excitement – come to China and play in the traffic!


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