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.