Learning to Live with 24+ million people

Tonite’s subway commute was a tight squeeze.

I couldn’t find room on the Line 8 train tonight to squeeze on and, believe me, I tried.  So, I waited three minutes for the next one and muscled me way into a car so crowded that I didn’t need to hold on to a pole because I was wedged in nice and cozy—I could have fainted and would still be standing.  My subway commute in Shanghai consists of three trains plus a healthy walk to get to/from work.  While taxi’s are cheap, they are not plentiful during the peak commuting hours so I am getting used to taking the subway along with the 24+ million people who live here.

Scooters waiting to get off the ferry.


What’s it like to live with that many people?  Well, you quickly get used to people in your private space.  While you must be very nimble to dodge traffic, usually you are safe enough if you cross with lots of other people (safety in numbers and all) but tonight, in a crosswalk with others, a lady on a scooter came up from behind me so close that she touched my arm and then cut directly in front of me.  Close call but I suppose I should be grateful that she allowed me a warning before trying to run me down.  Thanks, scooter lady!  Have a nice evening!

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Need some pants hemmed–tailor on the sidewalk can help!
street hair cut
Sidewalk street barber.

As I have said many times, the Chinese live their lives on the sidewalks, whether it’s socializing, sewing, eating, spitting or smoking.  You also get used to people taking care of their business in public with trash cans being used by men and also by toddlers being held up by their moms, all aiming for the opening but probably missing quite frequently.   Taxi drivers especially seem to have the need to relieve themselves in public between customers on busy streets and highways.   I’ve gotten so used to seeing these type of activities that I just avert my eyes now and power walk to get past as they do their thing in full view of all who pass by.  I suppose it’s just a case of too many people, not enough bathrooms.  That being said, you also get used to taking your shoes off before you enter your home at the end of a long commute because you have literally stepped in some serious shit that should not be tracked inside.

I’m not judging, just observing and learning.  When in China, you learn to have patience, be nimble like a cat (which you rarely see because they are running for their lives) and appreciate the hard working people who live here trying to make a better life for their child, pinning their hope for the future on their only offspring.  I am experiencing China while being one of the few of the 24+ million here to have heat, a soft bed, a bathroom and enough food to eat.  Believe me, I realize I am one of the lucky ones.

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