Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Shanghai, China V

The powers that be seem determined to bring order to the city’s chaotic streets. Uniformed wardens blow whistles and issue threats to jaywalkers and offending motorists. It’s kind of sweet, trying to make this city over as Norwegian. But it seems like a tough sell. Pedestrians still stream into traffic as cabbies, bikers and scooters all weave through the confusion, paying heed to neither laws of man or physics.

Despite China’s nominal status as a people’s socialist republic, displays of conspicuous wealth are everywhere, and coming with that wealth is a sense of power and privilege.

A young sport drives his tricked out, canary yellow street racer through a rush hour crowd. That earns his some verbal abuse from a nearby crossing guard. There are words. Followed by shouting and finger pointing. But slapping the roof seemed to be crossing some invisible line, and junior leapt from the car ready for a fight.

He might have been more persuasive if he’d applied the parking brake first.

I had to admire his persistence though; he continued shouting abuse and making threats for half a block even as his car idled along in gear, dragging him across the pavement and toward oncoming traffic.

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