I know that I take my life into my hands every time I cross the street. In Texas, from where I hail, driving outranked other daily activities on the danger-0-meter. Now, spending time in Beijing, I found the new most dangerous thing to do each day. That’s biking. Occasionally I get in the car with others. I began driving in 1988 at the tender age of fifteen. I taught myself how to drive a 5 speed 1980 model Toyota Celica with manual steering. I attended driving school the summer before turning sixteen at my high school. I recall the lessons we learned. The most important thing that the coaches teaching impressed upon us dealt with safety. Automobiles kill people. We learned all sorts of things I had never thought about before. I don’t know which nugget of information that was thrown my way counts as the most important. The fact that cars kill people sticks in my head (even today) above all other things related to being in a vehicle. I respect the car, the road, other drivers, and especially the driver of the car I ride in. Being a passenger I observe all sorts of differences in China in relation to driving in central Texas.
Many difference relating to driving in Texas and Beijing come to mind. The quantity of cars on the road differs dramatically. It’s nearly incomprehensible to comprehend the quantity of vehicles in Beijing compared to Austin. I began driving at fifteen. My parents drove. Their parents drove and I think their grandparents may have even driven cars. In China I find that Chinese people I know have been driving for fewer than ten years. Their parents never drove and so on. Things that I don’t even think about such as looking behind me and using my mirrors when backing up don’t occur here with most people. I’ve seen many different people relying on folks getting out of their way as well as their sensors on their cars. When suggesting that a driver use his/ her mirrors I get extremely confusing looks.
Another difference – When driving a car with others in the car I always check to see that everybody completely closes their door and gets in the car. That’s not a regular occurrence here. Safety? That’s not high on the priority list here. Stop signs? Nobody obeys those in China.
In the defense of this country of first generation drivers…. what they do works. It’s so different from what I am used to. Their average speed (because of the traffic congestion) is so low that horrible wrecks like we see daily in Texas occur less frequently. My driving friends take drinking and driving much more seriously than most Texan drivers I know.
In summary I am intrigued and entertained.
The dinner occurred near the start of the Chinese new year celebration. Jonathan arrived at dinner after having spent several hours at an end of year work party with his co-workers. That means that Jonathan enjoyed spirits nearly all day and evening long. I arrived at Jonathan’s dinner fresh off a hiking group dinner which closely followed a beautiful afternoon of hiking with my most wonderful hiking group. Annie (in red scarf,) Justin’s young lady friend, and Amara, Justin’s flat mate also joined in the festivities.