In this entry, I blog a lot about driving: mine and my wife Jenny's. I also make mention of a question my son asked me about Star Wars, our Citroën's license plate number, a student wanting to throw up, Tony's opinion of school, the Civic Center Metro Station, and a forked lineup at Tesco.
On October 1, I drove a car for the second time ever (first time legally) in traffic in China. Four things, I quickly figured out. 1) I will have to always be on the lookout for e-bikes. 2)A lot of Chinese drivers drive very slowly. 3)A lot of Chinese drivers are stupid. 4)About the same amount of them are impatient and inconsiderate.
On my first drive in our new Citroën, I got stuck behind a driver who slowed down, to a practical crawl for no particular reason, in the middle lane. He hadn't put on his turn signals, but it seemed, from his looking about, that he was wanting to change lanes. I was flustered by this because all the cars around us were unforgiving, honking at the car I was stuck behind and at me in the Citroën. The other cars were then quickly passing that car and my Citroën, and I couldn't see a break in traffic so that I could pass. Not used to driving and still having initial timidity, I was stranded as the idiot in front of me.
I saw a considerable number of foreigners at the Hui Ju mall on October 1.
I binge-viewed the series Homicide Hunter with Lt. Joe Kenda. You have to like that name Kenda. It is a good name for a boxer.
When you come to traffic lights on a Chinese road, you may be surprised by what is on the other side of them. Sometimes you find that the lanes are a little off-kilter. That is, the lanes on the other side of the intersection don't line up exactly with the lane you had been in so that you have turn slightly to the left or the right in order to be driving between the lines of a lane. And then you are not sure if you should go left or right. Sometimes, you are in a lane with a straight arrow and find that if you continue on through the intersection in the direction the arrow indicates, you will come to a dead end. One time when this happened to me, I had to look 45 degrees to my right to see the road I could head towards. And when I went on the green toward the road, I had to skirt all these e-bikes coming from my right.
When the light turns green in China, you quickly learn to not expect the intersection to be clear. Not seeing a driver or cyclist blatantly run a red light in China is as rare as seeing a driver blatantly run a red in Canada. Many times on a green, cars coming from the opposite direction will try quickly to make a left turn before you get through the intersection. It is a maneuver that I have never ever seen done in Canada where left-turning cars wait for the cars coming from the opposite direction to get through before even trying to complete their turn.
A humorous sight for me, till I had to deal with it as a driver, was the light turning green at the same time that some old person would be one quarter of a way through an intersection. If the old person is on the crosswalk close to you, you just have to wait; but if the old person is on the crosswalk on the other side of the intersection from you, it can be quite the shock to be accelerating only to see an old person, in your path, looking at you like a deer in headlights. You have to stop, and the cars behind will honk and quickly pass you, stranding you and the pedestrian.
Tony asks me a head-scratcher of a question: Are the storm troopers, in Star Wars, police? I had always thought of the ST's as military but they do serve security purposes like policeman would so....
Jenny had her driving license though she has never driven since she got it five years previously. Then, she took her driving course in Beixin, her hometown which is in the countryside where the price of a driver training course is much cheaper than in the city.
There are roads in the area of Casa Kaulins where the traffic is light; and thus are great for new drivers to practice driving. This can be attested by the fact that many Driver's Ed cars are on those roads. It was there that Jenny did her first driving with her Citroën
Jenny quickly progressed from driving in circles on a dead-end, four-lane road to driving down a six lane inter-city highway with a speed limit of 80 kmh. Nevertheless, it was nerve-wracking for me because I had to fight this irrational fear that Jenny was no better a driver than eight-year old Tony would be. In fact, her instincts for driving in China are better than mine.
During an evening class, I had a young female student tell me repeatedly that she wanted to throw up. I had to fight the urge to ask her if she was experiencing morning sickness.
The license plate number for the Citroën has a 'K" in it. Very good.
The night before school, Tony said he didn't want to go to school. I couldn't blame him. And then that morning, the weather was dismal.
Jenny drives the Citroën to Tony's school to pick him up in the afternoon. The first time she did it, I was at work and I quickly phoned her to see how she had done. Much to my relief, she did well.
I did my first bit of freeway driving to get to Jenny's hometown. The speed limit was 120 km/h and I was able to say that I had driven on a bridge going over the Yangtze River.
Other big rivers I have driven over: The Fraser River, the Mississippi, the Red River and the Assiniboine.
I hate driving in Wuxi for many reasons. One is that making right turns is scary because I can't let go of my Western need to look before I turn. Local drivers turn right without looking instinctively. One time I was driving out of my apartment complex and hesitated to make a right turn. A driver behind me passed me so he could make a right turn, cutting me off as it were. It was a very inconsiderate maneuver but that is the way they drive here. Any hesitant driver in Wuxi cannot expect any consideration from other drivrers
The Civic Center Metro Station, with its long and wide tunnels, is looking more and more the white elephant. On October 13 when I went to teach my LKF company class, I couldn't help but notice that paint was cracking on the upper portions of the pedestrian tunnel walls. I also went down this exit tunnel which was brightly lit but had dust accumulating on the floor from neglect. Anybody happening to walk through the wide and empty tunnel would leave footprints which stood out very prominently because of the bright lighting.
This driving is taking away from things on which I had been concentrating. So, I will make one last observation about it: I hate driving on freeways where there are lots of flatbed trucks. They move at many speeds, take up every lane so that one is always slowing down or changing lanes to get away from them, and one can never tell if they use turn signals or mean it when they do.
I went to the Times-Century Plaza Tesco – the one that is near Casa Kaulins – to buy some drinks one Monday evening. It was so crowded that the lineups at the registers went into the aisles between the product shelves. I joined a lineup that was about six shoppers deep into the drink aisle. As I proceeded to the end of the drink aisle and into the daylight of the aisle that runs perpendicular by the front of the registers, I saw that my lineup had forked. That is, there was a man with a shopping cart who was standing beside the people I had been standing behind the whole of the time I had been in that line. He was trying to merge into "our" lineup. Behind this man with a shopping cart were about another six people. Behind me there were about six people as well. And so there was a question in my mind as to who – that be I or the man with the shopping cart – was to go into the cash register aisle and take up that spot behind the people I had been following. I am proud to say that I stood my ground and that the man with the shopping cart had his face turn red with what I assumed was embarrassment as I shuffled into the actual register aisle leaving him stranded Realizing that he had been trying to cut into a long lineup, he left and I could detect laughter and guffaws from the people who had stood behind him. Chinese are bad at queueing.