Friday, July 5, 2013
Two Dead Guys on the Road
On my way in to turn in my final grades, traffic was in a deadly snarl — literally. It was so tangled up, I couldn't even slide my bike between cars. If you've never seen a Chinese traffic jam, it's like some demonic Tetris board, cars jammed in together pointing in every direction.
When I finally crept to the front of the jumble, I saw not one but two dead pedestrians in the middle of the road. The car that had seemingly hit them had stopped right there (which is the norm in China), and a crowd had gathered to stand and stare at the dead guys while traffic snarled in both directions.
I didn't stop to look very closely, but they appeared to be dressed like the thousands of migrant workers currently sprouting up giant apartment buildings everywhere in the district where I live. I was running late to get my grades in, so I continued on up the hill as quickly as I could.
Other than at funerals, where it's more or less expected that one will see a dead person, I had seen perhaps two or three corpses in the first 39 years of life. Then I moved to China and in a little more than four years I've seen a dozen or more.
I saw one on a gurney in the lobby of the Dalian Medical University hospital. ("Welcome to the hospital. This could happen to you!") I saw one from a bus window in Shenyang, freshly hit by a car. I've seen several by roadside, probably traffic fatalities. I saw one migrant worker who'd been killed in a brawl by another migrant worker, who was dancing like a proud ape over his stilled coworker, bragging about his exploits to a growing crowd.
My joke is that in China, Rule #1 is: There are too many of you.
I came back through the same snarled traffic perhaps 45 minutes later. The traffic jam was still there, the onlookers were still there, two giant fire trucks were there, I don't know why. But the bodies had been removed.