Tuesday, December 1, 2009
The panic atmosphere at Suzhou train station
Something I think I’ve spent too much time doing in China is taking trains. Especially the train between Suzhou and Shanghai. It’s not the actual ride I mind: the bullet trains are fast, clean, quite new, spacious and comfortable (offering more leg room than most airplanes -I'm a big fan!). It’s the waiting for the trains.
I always feel like cattle when I stand there, in the crammed line. I don’t understand why the train guards wait until the very last minute to let people down to the platform. The only thing that creates is an instant atmosphere of panic. Everybody keeps pushing and elbowing each other to get to the train (I always feel for the seniors, who are slowly walking down the stairs trying not to lose their balance meanwhile people are pushing from behind). Seeing that the train sometimes has 16 railway carriages, at least 30 percent of all passengers break into a run as soon as they get to the platform. And then they lose their near and dear ones (which results in screaming). Then there are the other panic catalysts, namely the platform train guards, angrily blowing their whistles and yelling to people to hurry up?! Ah, this state of panic! First you are being told to relax and wait until the very last minute. Then they let you through and yell at you, telling you to hurry up….
Actually, one thing I don’t get about these platform guards is why they don’t help in the one situation when they are actually needed: when the train pulls in from Nanjing and a lot of passengers needs to get off in Suzhou, before new passengers can get on, and the train can continue to Shanghai. Before, this used to be smooth, due to each carriage being equipped with two doors so that people could get off through one, and get on from the other one. No collision had to happen.
With the new trains, however, there is only one door, and due to the whistle blowing and the “hurry up!”- yelling from the guards, passengers getting off the train actually have to fight with those getting on the train, as people try to get on and off at the same time (making the process extremely slow). People seem to be so stressed that they don’t realize that it would be much faster if you’d just make room for those getting off, and let them get off first, before trying to get on the train. But this is where the whole “me, me, me! First, first, first!” attitude comes into play and people behave like animals. It’s not a pretty sight.
I guess this train thing is OK if you only do it once/week or so, but when you end up doing it 4 days in a row let me tell you: it gets to you. I hold deep respect for those Suzhou citizens that work in Shanghai and therefore commute on an everyday basis. I know I could never do it. I would rather live in a dingy little room in Shanghai (apart from my significant other) during the weekdays and commute during the weekends than having to do this every single day.