Friday, June 15, 2007

Waiting for the light to change


The machine stops
Shanghai, China, May 2007 [Click to enlarge]


Sometimes, I take a picture and what makes it cool only dawns on me long after I've put the camera away. As an example, I offer up this image of a knot of folks on scooters waiting for the light to turn green.

As I crossed the street and grabbed this image, I failed to recall that this was a highly atypical view of a typical Shanghai intersection. This is a city whose chaotic traffic makes Manhattan, Montreal and London look positively tame in comparison. Red lights are often mere suggestions as drivers jockey for position and lean on their horns almost as if it's a national sport.

People don't get angry, mind you, and there's pretty much no yelling. But it's still hugely entertaining to watch.

So when I saw this near-silent group waiting patiently for the light, my brain failed to process the fact that no one here waits patiently for anything. I guess I was slow that day. I blame the jet lag.

Your turn: Traffic in your burg. Please discuss.

One more thing: I buried a literary reference somewhere in this entry. Wanna guess what it is?

15 comments:

Moogie said...

I live in a rural area so right around us, the traffic is basically non-existent. It's a lot different when you go into the big city (vs the town). This picture reminds me so much of what San Francisco is like, though I would imagine the people aren't nearly as friendly.

Chad Oneil said...

Traffic can be bad in my town.

Very interesting image.

Stacy said...

Did you happen to get a picture of a family of five on a scooter? We see that a lot here.

One of the craziest things I've seen was on an 8 lane street (6 lanes of regular traffic, and one lane on each of the outsides for side traffic). Against a green light, a person in one outside lane decided he wanted to be in the other outside lane. I sat at the light ready to make a left hand turn and watched in horror!

What I particularly don't like is that no one looks when they are coming into traffic from side streets. I think the mentality is that looking makes them liable, so if they don't look they aren't liable. Bottom line is they don't look, so going down side streets is a scary thing.

Wow. I should have just said, "Don't get me started!" ha!

kenju said...

I read it twice, and I can't see a literary reference. Wanna tell us what it is?

Anna said...

This cracks me up! :) Traffic is awful here...we try to walk, bus it or tube it everywhere!

Have a good one Carmi!

Rachel said...

We are pretty rural so traffic isn't too bad, unless you run into construction!

That is a lot of people waiting! Too much congestion for me!

A literary reference---would that be when you said, "a knot of folks on scooters?"

Catherine said...

Sorry, I can't see the literary reference. Traffic in our city isn't too bad, but it has got a lot worse in the last ten years. I notice it more now that I am working fulltime and can't avoid peak hour traffic. I have a very carefully chosen route to work that avoids the most congested streets. Fortunately there are only a few that get really choked up. If everyone rode bikes or scooters like those folks in Shanghai, there'd be a lot less congestion and a lot less pollution.
Here from Michele's.

Paul said...

You got a Wii. Hey, quick! Run over to my blog and read my latest post. It's urgent that you find out what might happen to you.

colleen said...

I'm seven miles from town and can sometimes drive there without seeing another car. It's a one stoplight town.

Is the literary reference "knot of people?" I'm just guessing.

~Cathy~ said...

The traffic around here is pretty light. Even in our nearest bigger city, there are only four lanes on the highway. And that's only for a short distance. Mostly it's three... or two if they've got a lot of construction going on.

I love that picture!

texasblu said...

Missed the reference too. Cool pic - cooler that you've actually been there.

Trafic was HORRIBLE in Houston - used to take hours to get to work. I hear it's worse since we headed to the western states. Lovin it here - in our county, there is ONE traffic light! :D

Oh - and Michele says "Hello".

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

Traffic here? Horrendous! And people get horribly angry and give you the funger and sometimes pull a gun! (It does happen, I'm sorry to say...)
What I find so interesting about this picture Carmi is that all those people are on Scooters! Not in cars. Is that unusual? Or is traffic so bad that the congestion covers Scooters, too!

Thanks for your lovely comments, my dear Carmi...I can't wait to see your Floral pictures!

b13 said...

pshaw...just look at my 6/16 post. LI-NY traffic sucks!

Carmi said...

OK, I'll fess up about the literary thing. In April, I was interviewed by the CBC in the wake of the big BlackBerry outage. The anchor, Fred Langan, spoke to me about E.M. Forster's "The Machine Stops". This short story, written in 1909, eerily presaged the Internet age and our increasing overreliance on technology.

It was just the kind of culture-meets-technology interview that I love to do. You can find the piece here:

http://brighton.ncsa.uiuc.edu/prajlich/forster.html

Somewhat coincidentally, my iPod has had a tune by Apoptygma Berzerk in heavy rotation for the last number of months. It's called Kathy's Song, and it keys off of this very piece of writing. Cool, eh?

Here's a link to the lyrics. I'd be happy to hum a few bars of it over Skype (I'm "carmilevy"...feel free to find me) if you really want to hear it.

http://www.sing365.com/music/lyric.nsf/Kathy's-Song-Come-Lie-Next-to-Me-lyrics-Apoptygma-Berzerk/7436C0DAA250DD8948256DF00010AF48

More obscure literary references to come. These are fun!

Gyrobo said...

Thanks for the link to that great story!

I'll print it out and read it the next time I'm in traffic.