So two days ago, we finished a mutual night shift at 6:30 AM (Yes, I joined Shannon for her final shift.) and headed straight to check out of our hotel, pack up, and make it on to our train by 8:30… in a city of 8 million. Making it in good time to the station, we felt a bit of relief as we’d had a friend miss a similar train earlier in the week. Joining the crowds through the gates and down on to the platform, we were reminded that giant and heavy suitcases on wheels are mistakes in China. Don’t get me wrong… giant and heavy suitcases without wheels are worse. But the point here is that backpacks are your friends.
As we approached the train, our car’s doors weren’t opened yet. As well, no one to check tickets was there yet. Logically (we thought), we’ll simply wait in line. But logic can prove to be fleeting some days. So we stood and waited in line, while chunks of the crowd started to pry open the train windows and heave their bags, their friends, and themselves through them up into the waiting train car.
Now we had tickets for seats, so our only concern was finding space enough to store our beastly luggage somewhere other than on our laps. When we finally did board the train, the car was already filled to over capacity. The aisle up which one walks and wheels luggage is exactly (within half an inch) the width of our beastliest suitcase… meaning if ANYONE or ANYTHING is in that aisle, you have a problem. In a car already filled beyond capacity… you’re likely getting the picture… there were plenty of anyones and anythings in our way. And Murphy was in full effect on this early morning: After entering the train at seat #1, we observed our tickets to be #’s 63-64. Yes, those are the ones at the opposite end of the filled-to-more-than-capacity train car, as far as possible from where our oh-so-big bags currently stood.
Twenty sweat-filled minutes later, we had beastly bags up on shelves, and seats under our butts. I forgot to mention that all this crowded maneuvering and body-to-body positioning took place in early morning weather of 30+ degrees with higher humidity than anything home gets. I was glad I wore my grubby clothes for travel day—those might not be coming home. And no, don’t worry—I won’t miss them. I had the gift of sitting in them for 8 hours of sweating after they were already dirty. Those clothes and me… we’re real tight.
So I know you’re asking…
“Jason, how can I too have this rich experience?”
Well, let me tell you… all this can be had for the low price of 39 yuan. Yes, that’s right… you can travel 8 hours across the country for all of $5 too. And just think of the memories!