Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A week in gridlock


See the attached article on the week long traffic gridlock in Northern China. Apparently, North Americans think that they have traffic jams, spending hours at a time on freeways on roads that are more like parking lots. Well, it turns out that we have nothing to complain about compared with our Eastern neighbours, spending up to a week on the same stretch of highway, caught between construction workers and small villages and little signs of progress.

Remarkably, they're taking it all very well. The people stuck in traffic are talking, playing games and getting to know the local villagers. The only real complaint has centered around the price gauging by villagers selling water and noodles to their captive audience. Selling food on a daily basis for $7.50 a day, which is apparently more expensive than eating in a restaurant, has been the most common cause for complaints. Which begs the question, just how cheap is Chinese food in China? Most North Americans go for Chinese food as a cheap, fast and good form of takeout, but it appears that we're really overpaying for it.

It really puts the whole road rage trend in perspective, though. In North America, most people are enraged at spending an extra half hour in traffic or commuting because they consider it to be a waste of time. But the few hours that we lose on the road is nothing compared to losing weeks. Can you imagine receiving a call from your spouse saying:

"yeah, honey, traffic is terrible. Better count me out for dinner tonight. I won't get home until...what are we? Monday? Yeah, I should make it there by Thursday. Could you call the plumber and make sure that he's coming in, take my shirts to the drycleaners and record my shows? And maybe bake a lasagna? Thanks, miss you, love you, bye."

Talk about the disintegration of relationships. You could go out for milk and never come back. Your spouse will have to sit at home and wring their hands with worry, wondering whether or not you're lost, stuck in traffic, eaten by a bear or you truly left them because your marriage is a sham and they never really loved you in the first place. It makes you never want to ask for milk again.

You would have to leave home with a fully charged cellphone and laptop and load up your ipod with games and TV shows and even have a few changes of clothes on hand. Then you would have to call your boss and let him know that you won't be in for another few days! I've heard of people practically living out of their cars, but I never imagined that you would have to pack for a 5 day camping trip just to get to work one day!

So the next time that you're leaning on the horn or swearing at a row of bumpers in front of you because you're going to be late, remember China's weeklong gridlock and take a deep breath. And call for Chinese takeout. Be sure to tell them how outrageous their prices are too.

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