travel

Joyrides in ShangHai…

Or should I coin my own word to describe it more appropriately? That wouldn’t be a bad idea at all, after having been driven around a bit now. 

The traffic here is crazy! As in scary crazy!  Folks stick to their lanes most of the times but when they change lanes, and that happens more often than you would like it to, you might just want to shut your eyes tight and say your prayers.  Every time I get in the back seat of a cab, I so want to believe in some God.  Luckily for me, the whole ordeal is over even before I can decide on which one!  To give you a rough idea of what it is like, here are a few things.  Checking mirrors is not a concept drivers here quite understand.  A head/shoulder check is unheard of.  Jumping signals is a fairly common affair.  Horns are used more for entertainment. Like they are all part of an orchestra and are trying to make music as they drive.  And they all, very religiously, follow the age-old tradition of not yielding to pedestrians. In fact, if they are forced to yield to a rather rebellious and headstrong pedestrian, they make up for their failure to run him over by ‘making music’.

Just the other day, our cab jumped a red signal and knocked down a poor man on a scooter.  The next thing we know, our cab is parked right in the middle of a 4 lane road. And when I say ‘middle’ I mean ‘middle’.  Anyway, there they were, the cab driver and the scooter-man yelling at each other and arguing in the ‘middle’ of the intersection. And again, when I say ‘middle’, I mean ‘middle’!  There they were busy sorting out their differences and here we were trapped in a cab with traffic on both sides and the poor souls stuck behind us, honking away to glory.  Anyway, after about  15 minutes of sitting there, we finally mustered up enough courage to grab the opportunity to get out of the cab.  Change in signal and ‘no traffic flowing in our direction’ doesn’t really mean anything. Because you never know when another bloke will decide that he’s waited long enough and it’s time for him to get going.  Meanwhile a couple of other men had gathered around to solve the problem. Anyway, we wanted to take another cab but we wanted to pay this guy first. Mr. M walked up to him (brave man Mr. M!!) to pay him, and our cab driver, in a split-second, ditched the scooter-man, leaving him and his poor bleeding scraped knee right there to get on with his life.  No cops. No doctor. No insurance card. No contact details. None of that!

Another really bizarre thing about traffic here is that at most busy intersections, the right hand most lane and the left hand most lane are both right-turn only lanes and the traffic on both these lanes are given the green signal at the exact same time as the oncoming traffic turning left from a left-only lane. Watching this from a walkway bridge is interesting, but having to live through it from inside a vehicle is traumatising. It is very close to having a near death experience. Sometimes it is really hard to tell if we are  in the cab or if we are actually in the cab which, in turn, is in the bus that’s turning right from the left-hand-most lane.  More often than not, it feels like our vehicle has physically merged with some other bigger vehicle as they all make that turn and then it un-merged right after. Remember that old saying, “Be careful what you wish for….”?  Well…I did say I sometimes long for chaos, but this is definitely not what I meant!!  But (and Oh! what an important ‘but’ this is), all that said and done, I have to have to absolutely say,  “it’s not half as bad as driving in India though”!!!

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