Thursday, December 18, 2008


As in most cultures, the ugliest side of Chinese people comes out when they're behind a wheel. But while Americans will curse and shake their fists at people who cut them off, Chinese people will regularly step out of the car and run yelling toward the person offending them. This style of confrontation is quite likely in such a selfish driving culture as Shanghai displays. People don't think twice about driving into oncoming traffic or stopping in a manner which brings traffic to a halt.

This evening, the girls and I walked to the ATM. I walked, that is. The girls rode their new bikes. As these are new bikes, and a bit outsized for the little tikes, they rode quite slowly and with my assistance. But as we stuck to large sidewalks, it caused no problem.

No problem, that is, until we reached the sidewalk where a man behind the wheel of a large van wanted to drive. The sidewalk was large enough for a van, and possibly could have fit an individual walking next to the van. But with two youngsters on bikes, this van passing us was simply not an option. As he honked his horn behind us, I stayed firmly in the middle of the sidewalk, a few steps behind the girls to ensure their safety. The man revved his engine and attempted to pull around - coming dangerously close to S--. I quickly turned, slamming my fist onto his hood, and glared at him for a good 10 seconds. He seemed to shrink back, and so I returned to my shepherding.

As soon as I turned around, he lay on his horn and again jerked forward. I pulled the same move - quickly turning and slamming my fist on his hood. This time I added a point at his face and some harsh words in English.

After yet one more round of this, the man got out of his car and stormed toward me. My insides felt amazed - he really thought that the van on the sidwalk had the right-of-way over two young children? My outsides felt wildly angry, and looked around for support. The best way to win a public argument in China is to pull a crowd that sides with you. Quickly people began to gather, and confident that I was in the right, I stood my ground. More than stood my ground, in fact. As suits a person in a Chinese confrontation, I began yelling at the man in Mandarin.

He yelled something back at me and then stepped back into his car, quickly backing down from the growing crowd. We walked at our toddler pace to the bank, only a few steps away. He inched close behind us, and lay on the horn the entire way. But I felt like I fit right into my surroundings for having stood my ground.

1 comment:

Beth, Bill, E,B,and C said...

Way to go Lynn! Did you call him a Xia Dan? Or a Xiao Bei Jiu?