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.