Tag Archives: waiting in line

Taxi roulette

27 Sep

Since I switched jobs last year I can no longer walk to work.  I miss my daily walks and now really have to make an effort to get out and about more – either walking in the evening, arranging lunches by my apartment when I work from home or taking a walk near the office at lunch.

Getting to the office means that I either have to take the subway (which is about a 40 minute trip) or a taxi (which takes between 20-30 minutes depending on the traffic).  As I don’t go in every day because of the way my schedule works, I have been taking taxis quite a bit recently.  I know that if I get in a cab before 8am it normally means that I’m at the office by 8:20 and ready to start my day.  Rainy days are always tough – but I’ve had some bad taxi karma in the last several weeks where no matter what I try to do – in the morning it can be almost impossible to get a taxi.

I have my preferred corner and know if there is more than one person waiting at that corner it is normally going to be a very long day.   Sometimes you can see lots of taxis but they are all full.  Sometimes you see lots of empty taxis but they don’t stop.  And sometimes, people cut in front of me at the corner and jump into the taxi.

I have tried different tactics – I have a taxi app on my phone which sometimes will work.  I know if I head out before 7:30 my chances go way up – same thing if I go after 10am.  But really – there is no good way to predict if there will be others at that corner at the same time as me.

Once I get a taxi – it doesn’t mean all is well.  Our office is located near the Huangpu River, but right next to a ferry terminal – so very few taxi drivers have heard of it.  I have become an expert on telling the drivers which  tunnel to go through – which way to go if there is  traffic, how to get un-lost when they take a wrong turn when I wasn’t paying attention and even arguing if they take too long and the fare is higher than I expect.

It is funny how getting that taxi can affect my day and my mood.  When it works – my day starts very smoothly – when it doesn’t I can wind up flushed and discombobulated – not the best way to start my first meeting.

Similarly – getting home from work I have the same situation.  My normal tactic is to leave the office slightly early because of my late phone calls – but even that doesn’t guarantee me a smooth trip home.

Each time I put my arm out I am playing a game of taxi roulette – hoping and hoping that taxi will pull over in front of me and will whisk me off to my next destination.  The taxis remain affordable (about $4 USD one way to the office) and the drivers for the most part are polite and professional.

I would say that this is a cultural difference, but I don’t think so – I think it is a big city standard that I managed to avoid for a long time given the location of my apartment and workplace.  We have considered buying a car – but driving in Shanghai strikes me as even more stressful than playing taxi roulette – then I’d have to worry about parking too!

What tactics do you suggest for managing my taxi frustration?  I know it shouldn’t bother me so much – and occasionally I’ll have a week or so where everything will go perfectly – but that is the exception not the rule.  Any tips?


Guest post – I’m ready to move to China* – Part 3

21 Jan

*except for that whole “speaking Mandarin” thing

I am pleased to announce that I’m starting the year off with something new on the blog.  My good friend and cousin, Matt came to visit me mid-October and before he left I gave him the idea of doing a guest post.  This is the final segment of the three.  To read segments one and two with his observations, click here.

Greetings all for a third time! We’re rounding the bend for the final lap here, people. Can it be that I’ve finally run out of things to say? That can’t be true: this is the Internet, where people never run of things to say, no matter how stacked the empirical evidence is to the contrary.  Here now is my final set of observations from my visit to China:

  • Friday afternoon is a bad time to visit a popular museum. This should be obvious, but I still got to find out first-hand at the Shanghai Museum. Lots of foreign tourists and well as Chinese tourists. (Just count the group guides with their flags!) And everyone was taking pictures of everything. I know that’s hardly a revelation, but seriously, how many photos of ancient Chinese bronzeware (or celadon vases) does someone need to really capture the essence of the exhibit? Camera use ranged from smart phones to “professional photographer”-quality cameras. My 5-year-old Sony digital was somewhere in between. Yeah, I took pictures too, but few and far between.  …I’ll get off that high horse now.
  • The Saturday before I left became “Inadvertent Movie-Watching Day.” In the morning I went to the Shanghai History Museum, where I spent about 45 minutes watching a film in the entrance hall. And that wasn’t even the whole running time! This film primarily covered the life of turn-of-the-century gangster Du Yuesheng from his early days through the civil war between the Nationalists and Communists through World War II. But the movie inexplicably broke away to also tell the stories of two famous Chinese actresses (Zhou Xuan and Li Xianglan). I felt that movie (which had English subtitles!!) gave me a fantastic look at the history of Shanghai through the first half of the 20th century. I recommend watching it (I don’t know the title), but maybe not while standing in the Shanghai History Museum foyer for an hour.
  • “Inadvertent Movie-Watching Day” was more than one movie! That afternoon at the Postal Museum (My hostess has covered that too well for me to add anything) I found myself watching another movie. This time it was “Romance in Philately” playing on a small TV (with English subtitles) in the 1980’s timeline area. At first I thought it was a simply a short promo for the Chinese Post Office: after flirting with the cute postal carrier, the hero visits multiple friends who by sheer coincidence all have elaborate stamp collections! It’s as if stamps are the coolest things ever in this movie world. But then the movie plot actually deepened: the cute carrier called the hero’s bluff (he tried to pass off his borrowed friends’ stamps as his own collection) and he had to regroup to win her heart. I admit, had I not been at the museum with my friend, I would have stood there and watched that entire movie too. (We ended up watching about 15-20 minutes worth.)
Movie details

Movie details

  • Everybody knows that the Bund-side of the Huangpu River is the best place for panoramic photos, but Suzhou Creek is a hidden jewel that can hold its own, skyline-wise.

Reflections on Shanghai 2 Reflections on Shanghai 7

  • Greta tried explaining to me about the two degrees of spiciness in Chinese food: I’ll paraphrase them as “heat” and “numb.” I couldn’t wrap my head around “numb” until we went out for Sichuan-style food the day before I left for home. (She covered this on her post of her favorite Sichuan restaurant in November.  To see it, click here.) One entrée was some spicy ribs that ended up perfectly encapsulating the “numb” concept: there’s not really any heat-based pain, just a weird buzz on your lips, like you’ve been trying to play the trombone or some other brass instrument. I can’t think of any dish States-side that replicates that feeling, so chalk one up for new experiences in China!
Not during the run to the airport, but to give you a sense of the number of people around

Not during the run to the airport, but to give you a sense of the number of people around

  • I’m notoriously famous for my last minute rushing regarding travel. (In fact, I barely made my initial flight to Shanghai from Chicago! I had to carry-on my large “camping” backpack…) So the Monday morning of my departure I resolved to break the trend. Alas, Fate had other plans. What should have been an easy transfer from Line 9 to Line 2 (and then to the Maglev) became unworkable thanks to crowds for the Line 2 transfer at Century Ave. so dense they came up the stairs from the lower platform! Is that normal at 9:30am? Was there an accident or a delay in the service? I didn’t know and didn’t care to find out. Summoning all the accumulated subway skills of the past week, I transferred to Line 6 instead. I took that to Line 7, and Line 7 to Longyang Rd. and the Maglev. And once again I was hustling for my flight, but at least this time I made it in time to check my bag!
  • At the airport I had 58.5 RMB left in my pocket. So I bought a decorative table mat for 58 RMB from a store next to the security check entrance. No monetary exchange for THIS traveler!

Matt and Greta - Pudong Skyline 1

And that’s it! Thanks for reading all about my Chinese experiences. Thank you both for letting me visit you and Li, and for letting me repeatedly take control of your blog. And best of all, I succeeded in not mentioning my favorite football team, the Chicago Bears, anywhere in these blog posts! No, wait… Aw fiddlesticks!


Thank you Matt for your posts and fresh view of visiting Shanghai!  If there are any questions for Matt, feel free to leave them in the comments – either he or I will do our best to give you an answer.  Looking at the photos of the Bund and blue skies remind me why I like living in Shanghai so much.  Anyone else want to come visit?

Cambodia Day 4 – A Balloon Ride

16 May

This post is part of our adventures in Cambodia, to see other posts in the series, please click here.

One of the items in the tourist brochures we looked at that appealed to both of us was a hot air balloon ride over the temple area.  We did some research and there were two types of balloons – one a free hot air balloon and the other that was attached to a cable and winched up so it wouldn’t blow away.  We decided on the second option, as it was more flexible and also more affordable.

We started our day trying to go up in the balloon, but after snapping a photo, we were informed that the wind was too strong and to try to come back.

Our first attempt to ride the balloon early in the morning

Our first attempt to ride the balloon early in the morning

We then went to explore several other places and then returned again after lunch.

Once again they told us that they weren’t sure when/if we’d be able to fly.  This time though we really didn’t feel like going back into the hot afternoon sun and decided to sit and wait for a while.  The ticket takers said we could wait, but we didn’t need to pay until they decided if it was safe to fly.  We watched group after group come, listen to the weather report and then leave.  Finally, after waiting for over an hour they told us that we may be able to go up.  We took a couple of “happy pictures” with the balloon from below and then waited along with a group of German tourists for our turn.

Yay!  We finally get to take a ride.

Yay! We finally get to take a ride.

Look at the blue sky and puffy clouds - it was still pretty windy up there.

Look at the blue sky and puffy clouds – it was still pretty windy up there.

Even though the balloon was very large, only 8 people could go up at a time.  We watched the earth get smaller and smaller as the winch let us float above the fields below.

My guess is that it was a German balloon.  That's a good thing - I trust German technology

My guess is that it was a German balloon. That’s a good thing – I trust German technology

The winch letting us up

The winch letting us up

The beautiful pattern of the fields below

The beautiful pattern of the fields below

Finally then, we were able to see Angkor Wat from above.  To think that so many hundreds of years ago this temple was there – before hot air balloons or airplanes – was mind boggling.

See Angkor Wat over Li's shoulder?

See Angkor Wat over Li’s shoulder?

Angkor Wat from above

Angkor Wat from above

The ride only lasted about 20 minutes, but we had a wonderful time.  I would highly recommend it if you are visiting the Angkor Wat complex.

Heading down after a great ride.

Heading down after a great ride.

After finishing our balloon ride we then headed to Phnom Bakheng hill which was the recommended spot to watch the sunset.  Stay tuned to see if it could match the sunset of the night before!

What’s the longest you’ve waited in line for a tourist attraction?  Disney World doesn’t count!

Waiting and waiting and…

10 Jan

I try not to rant on this blog very much.  I use it as an avenue to recognize the positive and make sure that I notice the beautiful – whether that beautiful is a great meal, a sunset or just something that makes me smile.

Sometimes though, it is hard to stay positive.

My office building is still under construction.  When I was home for Christmas they made marked progress, taking away most of the scaffolding and in general sprucing things up.  To great fanfare the main doors opened a week ago so an entrance that has been closed for nearly two years is now available.

And yet, that is only the outside appearances that they care about – the Chinese building owner equivalent of “saving face.”  Our office head told me that there is an opening ceremony on January 18th.  There is a long way to go and inside, it is mutiny.

The elevators have been under construction for months and now that they have unveiled the “new look” there is no way to tell which elevator door will open and so you have to scurry towards the door with the rest of the crowd and hope there is still space.  One day two of the four elevators that serve our floor were broken and I waited 15 minutes to go to lunch and then another 10 minutes to come back upstairs after.  I feel like I should be reimbursed for the wasted time.

Our office administrator has joined an action committee with other tenants for the slow moving construction.  There have been construction people during business hours standing on our desks, they have turned out the lights, there are power outages and phone outages.  We have been informed that shortly (though they said it at the beginning of December initially) the bathroom on our floor will be closed and we will have to go to another floor to use the restroom.

Our bathrooms here have been used by the floor below us for nearly two months.  There are only three stalls for probably over 200 women (hence the title of this post).  It makes me want to cry and scream and resort to physical violence – my yoga toned body has given me a pretty strong kicking leg, but who to kick?  There are no other options except I suppose getting dehydrated and not using the facility at all, but my body has not reached that level of self control as of yet, though give me another year and it might.

Coming to work physically makes my stomach turn and emotionally puts me in an extremely negative frame of mind.  I have tried re-framing, I have tried working from home (which I did for a period earlier this year, one day a week), but every time I enter my mood darkens.  What power the place where we spend our time has over our mood and life!

At this point everything the building management says is now met with skepticism by me.  I don’t believe our office committee, the doormen and especially the announcements that the building sends out (unless they are indicating the power is going out – those announcements always seem to be about two hours before).

So what do you do?  What do you do when there is nothing you can do?  I know that I need the courage to accept the things I cannot change, but I lack it, I really do.  How to keep positive?

Any suggestions welcome.  I’m sure I’ll get out of this funk eventually – it has been exaggerated by the fact that I have to work 8 days in a row under China’s lovely annual holiday reorganization plans and I am just over 6 days in.  I would guess that it is also post-holiday let-down as well.  More positive posts to come.

Please share your advice on how to get through this period.

Waiting in line

13 Nov

One of the more orderly lines I've waited in.

I was priveleged to recently play host to a friend from Chicago and her new husband during their honeymoon throughout Asia.   We spent an evening catching up and sharing stories – I suggested one of my favorite Sichuan restaurants (read – spicy!) and we had a lovely evening.  At one point one of them asked me if by now (four years in) I was used to everything here.  I think my immediate response was that much less surprised me now than when I first moved here, but I was continuously finding new things.  Then I mentioned that one thing I still wasn’t used to was waiting in line.

Waiting in line in China is more like a contact sport than the mind numbing process in the US.  You have to continuously protect your personal space and make sure that there is no one who shoves in front of you.  When I go to the supermarket people will be standing behind me, their shopping baskets hitting the back of my knees.  If we go to a movie, the crowd around the ticket window is so close to the to person in front of you that you can feel their breath on the back of your neck.  Waiting to get on the subway a mob will form at the door and if you don’t push a little, you likely won’t get on that train. 

Contemplating further I realized that I tend to structure my day in such a way that I avoid lines.  My apartment is within walking distance – no subway.  I take lunch late – no lines.  If possible, I shop early morning on the weekends – minimal lines, at least not the supercharged, basketing pushing lines.  I suggest that my other half buy the movie tickets.  My coping mechanism is to look for alternatives.

I have gotten more aggressive since I moved here.  I can put on my game face and push to the front.  I have been known to thrown an elbow and I even got into an argument once at the airport when a middle aged gentleman cut through the taxi line.  These are all positive things, kind of.

How do you feel about waiting in line?

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