Saturday, February 9, 2008
The Great Equalizer
Today I took the train to Suzhou. And it was definitely a plebian experience.
I got to the train station around 8:10am and found ticket counter number 10 where the service is in English. She said there was a train going at 8:37 but standing room only... so I took it. The only return ticket she could get for me was 9:39. Oh boy. But for 37 RMB total, you can't really complain.
After getting my bag scanned and going through a metal detector that were probably only looking for weapons and explosives, I ran to the platform and got on my train.
The area for standing is so small. I squeezed in between two train carriages and waited for the journey to begin.
A family was parked in the same area as me, carrying many piece of luggage. A well-off Shanghainese woman also got a standing ticket but was annoyed at seeing luggage everywhere preventing her from finding a decent spot to stand in.
When a train attendant complained about the bags blocking the passage way, the bitchy woman also chimed in until eventually the average income family moved their bags.
I was pushed along further up front towards the seating area, while that woman took my spot.
But karma really does happen because for over an hour she was stuck listening to a cranky baby that wouldn't stop crying for most of the trip.
Across from me a young boy sat on a bag and played games on his mom's cell phone. He was so frustrated that he couldn't get a higher score.
Then he got bored and borrowed his dad's PDA where he also played games and listened to music.
Finally after over an hour and a half later, we arrived in Suzhou and I could feel the blood had settled down at my feet.
After that train ride I had a sense of what Spring Festival travelers had to go through... it's a tough slog, but for many this kind of travel is a necessity, not a luxury.