Understanding China, One Blog at a Time

An American in China

Charm of Chinese Subways- Anger Sweat and Tears

Posted by w_thames_the_d on May 31, 2011


To be brutally honest, the subways in China have the charm of a late 70’s laundromat. Part of the problem is that there are so many people here, but worse yet are the sanitary habits/nonexistent, and moral fiber(stretching that term to its utter limits). Please bear in mind that this rant is not against the rural poor or peasants as the Chinese affectionately call them, but the middle class. Let me show you the world of Chinese subways.

Imagine a dingy Laundromat on wheels resplendent with Chinese women both old and young draping the latest in hooker-ware fashion across their bowed old shoulders or stooped younger ones. The cars are filled with women covered in ill-fitting polyester tops similar to those heaped in street corners in the PJ’s back home. Styles of clothing the likes of which have not been seen for decades. Clueless Chinese women thinking they look ‘fashion’ in puffy skirts like 1920’s bathing suits, fingers rammed up noses in an attempt to extract that ever elusive last nugget they could not remove on their 20 minute bus ride before.

Ancient men while peering out at the world through veiny crimson eyes, lids hanging likes hunks of bread under their spacious foreheads steal glances at young flesh then return their gaze to the front, better days behind them. Reeking of cigarettes and alcohol one child policy ‘boys’ as they are called, looking ‘tough’ with globs of hair plastered into heaps on their heads like piles of hay in an Iowa field. Two weeks from the poverty addled northeast they come for fame and money. shirts you dropped off at the Goodwill when you were a tyke surround you and that indescribable yet certain odor of despair fills the car. Despair about life, anger at the world, the misogynistic culture, house prices, lack of freedom, overcrowding, their parents expectations of them, forlorn lovers, foreigners, food.

This is China’s middle class. Cut from the same cloth of a generation of US citizens who find more comfort peering at life through the bottom of a 40 ounce bottle of 8% alcohol or the bluegray wisps of a Lucky Strike unfiltered. A generation of people weaned on ‘insta-gratification’ more concerned with shoving the pregnant woman to the floor in order to disembark at Jianguomen, a generation of people for whom the term ‘worship’ means nothing less than red notes with maos benevolent face, exchanged for 15U$.

The charm of riding a subway in China is not being Chinese or Asian, we are allowed undisturbed passage. A charm not enjoyed by anyone looking Chinese who will soon be considered as a bother, something underfoot, one more out of 1,340,000,000 people who are consuming their resources.

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