Finding Equilibrium

I’ve known since I was little that gas expands to fill all the available space. I knew this rule like some of my students know their wordlists, so I mean I was able to repeat it when prompted or write it on a test, not that I was ever able to apply it in a meaningful way. It’s still the same amount of gas, right? So how can it fill a small container and a big container? I’m twenty-five and it totally boggles my mind.

Today in the grocery store, I finally understood.

Now, the Chinese do not form lines. Ever. Everything in this country is first-come, first-serve. I didn’t realize how this had affected me until Stick was visiting and I pushed him through the airport at top speed. He tried to tell me that there was no need to rush, we had tickets for reserved seats, and I just laughed. And ran faster. In the supermarket, the correct way to buy meat, fresh bread, fruit or vegetables is to push your way up to the counter and shout what you want.

The Chinese also don’t walk in a straight line. Ever. This may sound like hyperbole, but it’s not I’m not so crazy about the daily near-death experiences that occur when a bicyclist spots her friend or some apples on sale or something shiny. Fortunately, there are no shopping carts in my local supermarket. Instead, shoppers use baskets, usually one between two people, who are each holding a handle and walking in opposite directions. Because most of the aisles are blocked with people, it feels like most of Yantai is in the grocery store.

And yet, when we’re done shopping, this huge crowd can compress into a tiny, tightly-packed mob at the checkout.

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0 Responses to Finding Equilibrium

  1. The Humanaught says:

    And then again on the supermarket provided free bus.

    And here we thought China just teaches us Chinese and how to disrespect our fellow (wo)man.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I thought I imagined it…what we used to call the “Beijing drift” where you could never tell exactly which line the person on the sidewalk next to you, in front of you, behind you, whatever was taking.

    As for the lines, I was at the Real Madrid/David Beckham debut in Beijing in 2003. I witnessed, quite literally, a whole beer cart be taken apart piece by piece as the crowd pushed its way up to the bar for more beer–finally breaking the final frontier and going THROUGH the bar. Quite a lot of fun.

    Great post!

    J From the Granite Studio

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