Visiting a public restroom anywhere in the world can be a gamble. Sometimes one is pleasantly surprised: At the Icon Grill in Seattle male patrons are encouraged by a multimedia display featuring scenes of waterfalls, floods and running faucets all set to classical music.
I haven’t come across anything similar here in China but I do get a kick every time I visit JUSCO, one of the large department stores in Qingdao. Posted above every urinal is the phrase “Step Forward for Civilization” in both Chinese and English. Apparently the powers that be believe that if we men could just be a little more tidy when taking care of business the world would be a much better place.
Maybe they’re right.
Earth Day came and went here in Qingdao without so much as a litter pickup party. It is very easy to feel discouraged about the current and future state of the environment here in China. One thing we all can do to help is use more public transportation.
Should you every find yourself in China you might be inclined, perhaps in an effort to reduce your carbon footprint, to take the bus. In my experience this can be somewhat traumatic. Maybe you just want to save money, why spend 30 yuan ($4) on a taxi when you can spend 2 and take the bus. Remember, that 28 yuan could be used for a decent meal, a couple of beers, or a whole stack of pirated DVDs. To save you the expense and years of therapy I offer this simple overview of taking the bus in China.
Of course the bus will be crowded, everywhere in China is crowded. Current estimates put the population at 1.3 billion. I think this number is a bit low, I could swear there were at least a billion people on the bus with me last week.
Just getting on the bus can be a challenge, school children and old people will scratch and claw their way along with office workers and government lackeys to squeeze through the narrow front door. If entry through the front door seems impossible it is common practice to hand you fare to someone else to put into the fare box and enter through the back door. Keep in mind that the bus may not stop completely during this process.
There is almost no chance you will be able to find a seat. This is because people who have a seat never leave the bus, their families toss water and sandwiches trough the windows as they pass by. Charlie had nothing on these guys.
Imagine yourself standing, squeezed into a contortionist’s position, you head bent against the hand rail and some stranger’s buttocks uncomfortably close to your crotch. At least you made it on and in 40 to 60 minutes you will arrive at you destination. Of course your spine will never be the same again, but you have done your part for the enviroment You close your eyes and picture yourself sitting back with a beer, watching a pirated DVD when the unimaginable happens: someone farts.
I am a big advocate of public transportation. When living in Seattle I was a proud participant in the Ballard in Motion campaign, and have to tote bag to prove it. Still, I shutter each Tuesday and Wednesday morning I climb aboard the #321 to my university teaching job.
I recently came across a book with the intriguing title “Olympic Security English.” With chapters ranging from “Giving Directions” to “Dealing with Brawls” this text covers all the bases. It is good to know the police will be prepared in 2008. Here is an excerpt:
At the Lost and Found Office:
Foreigner: Hello, officer.
Police: Hello, sir!
F: I’m Joe Kennedy. I’ve been notified to come here for my lost wallet.
P: Please give me the Report on Lost Article.
F: Okay. Here you are.
P: To make sure, will you tell me what’s in the wallet?
F: It’s black and rectangular.
P: What’s in it?
F: 300 US dollars, 3000 yuan, 2 telephone cards, and 3 credit cards.
P: Anything else?
F: And a photo of my wife and daughter.
P: Absolutely right! Here is your wallet. Please sign your name on the Report on Lost Article.
F: All right. It’s really incredible! A lost wallet can be recovered! Only in Beijing can this be possible!
P: The taxi driver found it and sent it here.
F: Thank you very much. I really appreciate your efforts.
While I am certainly happy for Mr. Kennedy, I have some serious doubts as to the veracity of this exchange. Only in Beijing indeed.
For more on the book check out: Book will help police converse with English speakers and Beijing police learning ‘Olympic Security English’.
These two workers were enjoying what was most likely a well deserved break when I selfishly snapped their photo. This was back in September when getting forty winks out on the sidewalk was just another fact of life in China. Winter has arrived and with it a biting wind which makes me very nostalgic for those warmer days. I could post a photo of students wearing hats and gloves dashing between classes or of me huddled in front of a space heater but that would just make me feel colder.