I've been back in
for four weeks now.
In the seven weeks I have been gone the traffic has gotten even
worse. Our city is adding a thousand new
cars every month. What this means is there
is a monthly influx of a thousand rank rookie Chinese drivers hitting the
streets in their new wheels in their pursuit of enhanced face. They muddle along, learning which pedal does
what, trying to avoid hitting each other,
all the while, blithely ignorant of even the most rudimentary driving skills—
other than horn honking. Horn honking is
something that I think they teach beginning in preschool. Apparently there is even an advanced offering
in the universities. China
and Japan have been engaged in some serious chest thumping over
some barren islands off the coast of China that China seems to think they own, but that an international court
most likely would determine that they belong to Japan . The only
reason anyone is even remotely interested in them is because of potential gas
and oil reserves there. That’s also a
reason China is trying to claim waters off the coasts of China and the Viet Nam . Gotta fuel
those incompetent drivers in their quest for self esteem. Philippines
Owning a car here is a rather expensive, inconvenient pursuit. The streets suck, fuel and insurance are expensive, cars are expensive to buy relative to income, and there is absolutely nowhere to park. However, achieving big face is one of the prime directives of Chinese life, and nothing says big face like a big, black, Mercedes Benz.
Imported cars carry a massive tariff, almost doubling the price of the car, so a BMW is one pricey set of wheels.
The streets are chockablock with cars, weaving around in whatever lane or lanes, honking, randomly stopping, pulling out in front of traffic, turning left from the outside lanes, all in a fruitless pursuit of non existent parking places. Much time is spent idling in dinky parking lots waiting for someone to leave. Sidewalks become clogged with parked vehicles, forcing pedestrians to walk in the streets. Parking is often the ultimate quest, for the following reason:
Very dark window tinting is popular here. It sort of defeats the purpose conspicuous consumption, since nobody can see you in your very expensive car. Since the windows are all so dark, nobody can see the insecure rich person, until they emerge from their shiny black albatross. Look at me, I’m a very successful person!
Periodically one sees a massive black SUV parked in a traffic lane while the owner takes care of whatever business he needs to conduct. This person has enough clout, or bluster, to feel that others can just work their way around their parked vehicle.
Ten years ago, almost nobody owned a car, but now everybody wants one! Car ownership in
is craziness on a grand scale. You haven’t achieved success unless you own a
I wonder how many people will eventually feel buyer’s remorse once the novelty wears off. How long will it take before sitting in traffic in a fruitless quest for parking reveal itself to be a rotten way to spend one’s precious spare time? How much effort and work was required to purchase this toy that upon purchase begins to lose its value?
It seems a hollow goal, to own a car here. I had a car for decades in the
, and now I’m happy to walk and use cheap taxis to go
where I need to go. It’s
liberating. I wonder when people here
will begin to feel the same way? US