February 12th, 2008

We’re back in Beijing. We were delayed a day. Yesterday was windy and cold, and lzh didn’t want to venture out into that kind of weather- never mind that we would’ve spent most of the journey safe and warm inside a bus. Oh well, I wasn’t in any hurry either- although it is nice to have finally had a shower and a proper shave. But today was the last day, because lzh has work tomorrow.

It’s a pity, though, that the journey was marred by some of the worst public behaviour China has to offer. It’s a pity that that had to be caused by lapses in management of the 919 bus line, too, because that’s normally very well run.

See, the bright spark who decided to slow everything down by insisting that everybody boarding at the terminal must either swipe their card or buy a ticket as they get on finally realised that the result was a ridiculously long queue. So bright spark suddenly decided to just fling the bus doors open and collect up money or swipe cards once the bus had been loaded. The result? A mad rush at the bus doors. You’ve all seen it before: People rush at the bus doors as its pulling in to the station, don’t even wait for it to stop. Then once the doors open, everybody pushes and shoves there way forward as if they had a God-given right to be first on. Never mind that there were plenty of small children in the crowd. Never mind that there is absolutely no shortage of 919 fast buses, and that a new bus was pulling into the station every five minutes at most. When it came our time to board, I took the luggage while lzh dived in to get us seats. Some total shitferbrains next to me was pushing his woman forward telling her to shove her way to the front, with an idiotic grin on his face and giggling like a mentally retarded 5 year old who found his parents’ pot stash… I’d had enough of this bullshit and told him so. Very, very clearly, in Chinese so he couldn’t not understand. He got the message and backed off. That still left me fighting to stay standing and keep a hold of our luggage as the crowd pushed me towards the door. Made it, though, and lzh had somehow managed to get us the best seats on a bus with no luggage compartments for a couple carrying a box of apples and a large, full backpack.

And all because they were opening both doors of each bus and allowing people to rush them. There were only two guys on security/crowd control, and the bus conductors were nowhere to be seen- until it was time to swipe cards and collect money, of course, and then once everybody had been ticketed, they got off.

So, a message to Bafangda Bus Company: Sort your shit out. On major holidays and at other peak travel times you need enough people on the ground to manage the crowds. It’s a matter of public safety, for starters. It would’ve been very, very easy for somebody, especially one of the multitude of children, to have been pushed under the wheels of a bus, and if that happened, only the management of Bafangda Bus Company could’ve been blamed. You clearly did not have enough people on the ground to manage the crowds, and your negligence could well have easily led to deaths. Want that on you conscience?

And because the message clearly hasn’t gotten through to you yet: It’s also a matter of face. Yanqing, in case you hadn’t noticed, has a lot of tourist destinations. The Olympics are coming, and with them a likely surge in international visitors. Foreigners, contrary to popular belief, do not always ride around in chauffeured cars, or tour buses when we’re roughing it. Most of us, including probably most tourists, use public transport (and NO, it is NOT difficult for foreigners to find their way around, even when they do meet the stereotype and really do speak only English. Challenging, sometimes, but even then, not all that often, but not difficult, and very far from impossible), and especially when heading to places like Badaling, or to Yanqing to find transport out to Longqingxia, Kangxi Grassland, Songshan, Yudushan, etc, etc… You want all these foreign guests to go home talking about Chinese people rushing buses that haven’t even stopped yet? Or worse, witnessing children getting shoved under the wheels of buses by this mad crowd? When there is not even the slightest shortage of buses? That’s the image you want foreign guests to take to back to their home countries? No? Well, then sort your shit out. Now.

I mean, the behaviour of the scum in Silk Street and other tourist traps is bad enough as it is. We don’t need Bafangda to let it’s management slip and lose more face.

Alright, rant 完了. Yes, I know this sort of thing is distressingly common in China. Trouble is, it really got to me today because:

  1. It came at the end of what was otherwise a pretty good holiday, and
  2. The 919s are usually so well run, and there’s normally no trouble at all, even at holiday times when the queue of Yanqingren heading home or back to work can be well over 100 metres long. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, sure, but if it ain’t broke, don’t break it.

I mean, when there’s normally such a mad rush on a bus route, it doesn’t bug me that much. When a route that is normally run so well breaks down like that, it really gets to me.

Anyway, I have vented, it is out of my system. Hopefully management has learnt from today’s experience. Actually, once the bus had turned the corner at Dongguan and gotten on the road out to Badaling, it was back to 919’s normal brilliance. Actually, better, because the driver took us straight onto the expressway at it’s northern terminal instead of taking the usual detour through Xibozi.

But yeah, getting round that Dongguan corner was a problem. The bus station, of course, was congested, both with passengers and buses- well, congested with everything but the desperately needed staff to control the crowds. The weird thing was, the road running from Dongguan past the bus station was just about jammed. I’ve never seen so much traffic in Yanqing before- apart from of course, the truck jams that accompanied the construction of the G110 truck lane, but those were well taken care of by the police and didn’t interfere too much with regular traffic.

Oh, and while I’m ranting: CCTV’s foreign language internation channels (9 (English), Français, and Español) are really lazy. CCTV Français, and so far as I can tell, Español, take a lot of 9’s programming and just dub over in French or Spanish, just as CCTV 9 takes a lot from Chinese TV and dubs it into English. Fair enough, I suppose, but I was watching Carnet de route (presumably the French edition of 9’s Travelogue) this morning and it was about Harbin. First up, they offered a map of Heilongjiang that was in English. Small thing, I know, but could they not have replaced it with something in French, which is, after all, the language they’re supposed to be broadcasting in? And then, and I assume this is 9’s fault, they focussed very much on Harbin’s Russian heritage, but somehow they could only find American music. Really, how hard could it have been to find a few Russian tunes? Especially when you’re in Harbin? And considering how popular Russian folk music was in China in the 50s before the Sino-Soviet bust-up?

Alright, I’m nit-picking, I know. Actually, they did a pretty decent job of making Harbin look like an attractive and interesting place to visit.

Now I’m really done ranting. We’re back, we’ve cleaned up- ourselves, and our clothes. We’ve restocked the fridge. We had a pretty good, if short, holiday, and now we have some private space again.

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