Am I Deaf?

I am walking with a colleague through Wai Gao Qiao, that remote free trade zone at the outskirts of Shanghai where our project is located, on the way to our usual lunch location. We have to cross a large intersection, which leads directly to one of the main gates to the area, through which large trucks keep passing through. In the end, someone has to move all these freely traded goods, isn’t it? Quite a change over the centuries, given the fact that in earlier dynasties pure merchants where not well esteemed, actually had few or no rights as they were thought of not adding value as long as they would not produce any goods. But that’s long ago and not my issue. Chinese trade like hell nowadays.

When reaching the other side of the street the light turned green for one side of the cars. And the cars didn’t move. Even that is not my issue. Cars can break down everywhere, why not in the middle of an intersection.

My issue was: The light turned green, the cars didn’t move, and I didn’t hear a honk or horn! Nothing but silence. More than 3 cars in a row, green traffic lights, no movement, and no sound. Silence. For a full second already! Unreal, completely unreal. I turned around, checking if maybe another traffic light for these cars still showed red. No, all green. No police man or traffic warden around either. Also no broken-down 20m long truck diagonally across the intersection. (Had all happened already.) And anyway, a truck visibly completely blocking any movement on an intersection would be absolutely no reason for cars in the back not to hit the horn.

All that circled through my mind, the second second had passed, still no movement, no horn. I started to panic a bit: Did I finally become deaf? I had catched quite bad a cold during the first warm days on the weekend, which had made way for too cool an evening. Maybe I suddenly suffered serious ear problems.

I asked my colleague: “Did you hear anyone honking? Traffic light’s green, noone moves and I don’t here anything!” Well, I heard my saying very well. And also my colleague’s answer: “No, haven’t heard anything.” He perfectly understood what I was talking about.

Well, after some four seconds after the traffic light turned green, the first car eventually started moving.

Don’t know what had happened. I can’t explain it. But the event got stuck in my mind.

Hours later when leaving the project by taxi I paid very much attention to correct honking. My taxi driver was very accurate in it. Any vehicle coming from any side needs to be warned of us passing by. That’s the unwritten rule. Careless pedestrians also need to be reminded that the street is the sphere of the cars.

Also, Yanggao Lu has numerous traffic lights. Traffic lights don’t get switched off in the night like they get in Germany. In Germany, this complicated electronic measure is necessary to provide for a reasonable flow of the low night traffic. In China, traffic participants are able to judge themselves if obeying a particular traffic light makes now sense or not. If there is no traffic around, then a traffic light serves no purposes and is ignored.

But don’t get me wrong: Yanggao Lu is a busy street, so we had to stop quite often. And, yes, the good old rules are still in place: In the very moment the traffic light turns green car number 3 or 5 in the queue must honk. And they did!

Just imagine what would happen if the car in front would miss half a second of the traffic light’s green phase! What a loss in time! You would reach the next red traffic light half a second later! In order to practise attention for all involved cars, the first one as well as all the others in the queue behind, all traffic lights are carefully arranged to always show red when driving straigt ahead at any allowed or accepted speed (with accepted speed = 2 * allowed speed or even higher, if a police car passes by at higher speed).

I was relieved…rules, expectations, and hearing still OK.

Yet another hour later I even received the knightly accolate: I did some late night skating around Century Park as I like to do. That’s possible throughout the night as the streets are brightly illuminated by street lights. I skated fast, was approaching an intersection where I was intending to turn right as always around the Century Park. Still some 50 meters away a honk to the left: A taxi on the road apparently identified me as a potentially risk when turning right. Man, what a feeling: That driver must have thought I have something like rocket speed! Able to compete with a car! I took the honk as a motivation, sped up as much as I could, and tried hard to bump into the turning car. But certainly had no chance….the taxi was long gone when I reached the intersection.

At least I knew my ears were still OK! 😉

Categories: Shanghai

Originally Created: 03/11/2006 04:23:05 PM

Last Edited: 03/11/2006