Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Stories on the Bus

So, I spent a good amount of time riding the bus in Beijing. Mostly because I am cheap, and I can read Chinese, and it makes it fairly easy to get places. One thing I've noticed in China, is the way they employ people to do things that are normally automated in America. For example on most buses, there are two people working on the bus. One is the driver, and all he does is drive. There's another person in the middle of the bus usually, who you buy your ticket from. In this way, sometimes it's more convenient, because you don't necessarily have to have exact change. And also they watch everyone who comes in to make sure that they're buying a ticket. And this also means the driver doesn't have to split their attention, to dealing with the people getting on and off the bus, as well as driving. Also the person in the middle of the bus will also announce the stops as they're called, and tell the driver when to close the back doors, making sure that everyone has a chance to get off. In some ways, I feel that perhaps this is a more efficient system, since humans are more adaptable and flexible then machines.

I've also been impressed, considering that their job is a more intense and in your face version of working at the DMV, how professional and cheerful the people working on the bus are. Not the driver, but the ticket seller. Honestly, I think job security is pretty good in China, because there are plenty of places I've been so far where people aren't really doing their jobs and they don't particularly care that they're not doing their jobs. However, these guys work damn hard, and they're usually pretty competent and cheerful.

Anyway, the day before yesterday, my friend and I were leaving Beijing for Wuhan. Where I am right now. And the bus was packed. Our hostel was near the Beijing Train Station and we needed to go to Beijing West, so I suspect there were a lot of people transferring. Anyway, the bus was packed, literally packed, and the station attendent was climbing all over rails and practically hanging from the ceiling in order to get people their tickets and their change. I could barely reach him, and someone actually took my money and handed it to him, and I ended up doing the same thing for another woman. It was actually pretty cool.

Also, I was the only one on the bus with a backpack on. As my bio says, I'm short, and the backpack is about as big as me. The ticket seller was trying to get as many people as possible to put their bags on this sort of table near him, to conserve space and also let people who needed to get off get through, Usually you have to go to the back to exit the bus, however, when it's packed full of people that's well near impossible.

Anyway, he tried to get me to take my backpack off, but I didn't think I could do it on the bus, so I ended up having to rest it sort of on the ledge just so that I wasn't taking up the space of two people. Everyone around me tried to help me, and finally when I did get it on the ledge, uh, the ledge kind of made the backpack higher than I was so I was sort of hanging off. Anyway, everyone around me laughed, but in a good kind of way. I guess when you're in an uncomfortable situation together, everyone would just rather laugh.

However, I have to say for me, it was a pretty unique experience.


nien said...

beijing people sound so cool...

lovelesscynic said...

Beijingers ARE cool. I think I'm kind of in love with Beijing at this point.

Michelle said...

Heehee, I actually had those same thoughts. They are really nice and cheerful, and even when the bus was kind of chaotic, there was one lady that made sure I got off at the right stop and knew where I was going after. I hadn't been able to understand her directions that well, but she was so patient with me.

And, given that I had so many warnings about pick-pockets, it was cool to be able to pass money to someone, knowing that they were just sending it to where it needed to go.

Sometimes, I wondered if it's just the Chinese government trying to employ as many people as possible. All the same, it's pretty neat.