Heroes of China

15 Jul

Chinese history is full of heroic figures, from the ancient founding emperors, to the genius strategies of Zhuge Liang in the Three Kingdoms era, to modern China’s George Washington, Ben Franklin, and Thomas Paine all rolled up into one–the venerable Dr. Sun Yat-sen himself.  One might think the days of such great figures are far in the past, but my experience on the Metro last night convinced me that the tradition of great heroes is still alive and well in China to this day.
At most of the Metro stations in Guangzhou, the floor in front of the doors to the trains are marked so that the area is divided into two or three sections, with arrows denoting which sections are for boarding the train, and which sections are reserved for people exiting.  This is pointless in light of the Ancient Chinese Traditional mindset of “Whateva, whateva, I do what I want,” and people will pile up in front of the door as densely as Chinese physics will allow, and of course trying to board or exit the train is in fact more of a contact sport than anything else.  Such was the case last night; although the station was less crowded than it often is, a group of ladies in front of me had started the crowd off by spilling into the exit lane as the train approached.
A young transit guard standing nearby decided he would have none of that.  He strode over the the women, who were starting to be joined by other scofflaws in the group, and although I don’t remember his exact words, they were to the effect of, “Please wait over there,” as he gestured for them to stand back and clear the area.  Of course, this had little effect, as a uniform of any sort in China has the approximate effect of an Invisibility Cloak.  But he persisted, raising his voice and advancing on the group while making little pushing gestures with his hands, and to my surprise, the crowd moved, vaguely conforming to the approximate shape of the denoted area.
The train arrived, and the wall of people inside appeared shocked and confused at the lack of a corresponding wall in front of them.  They stood there for a moment, still braced for an impact that never came.  “Exit the car,” the transit guard said, in the same mildly authoritative tone he had just affected.  The people in the train, bewildered, began to file out of the car.  The people outside waited until there was enough space, and then peacefully boarded.  It was a thing of beauty.  I didn’t even take an elbow to the rib or accidentally palm a fat woman’s breast in the process, nor did I have to frantically grab at my bag to keep it by my side.
I thought to myself, “Anonymous transit guard, when your shift is done, you should head to the nearest C-Store and get yourself an ice-cold 青岛啤酒.  You’ve earned it.

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