Sunday, January 18, 2004

Shanghainese Subway Etiquette

From what I have seen in my few days roaming Shanghai, the locals follow two basic tenets in their use of the subway: aggression and laziness. Though seemingly in conflict, the two traits both come to the fore in a common scenario, in which the microsecond the subway doors open, a person waiting on the platform will perform an Olympian feat of athleticism in leaping through the crowd of exiting passengers, arms raised, ready to put the pimp hand down on Mother Theresa herself if she were to try to sit in the seat he had eyed from outside. Then contentedly sitting for the three minutes it takes to reach the next stop, the Shanghainese commuter will repeat the previous display in a mad dash for the escalator, while two wide flights of stairs remain blissfully vacant. I've had eighty year-old women throw me a hip-check because I dallied too long in front of a standing pole, but to their credit, I'm sure they would have taken it in stride had I tried to wrestle them for rights to use a disabled seat in a bus. Ask no quarter, give no quarter---fierce.

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