“Let’s push the bus!”
Sometimes people ask me about the weirdest thing I have experienced in China and this anecdote always comes to mind. It happened around May 2008; at that time I was a student in Beijing. One afternoon after class my friend Julia and me decided to go to Nanluoguxiang to walk around and do a little bit of window shopping. Nanluoguxiang is an alley in the center of Beijing, not far from the lakes in Houhai area. Nowadays it is pretty much a tourist trap full of the same shops you can find in all the other tourist traps in China, but in mid 2008 it was still not so crowded and was a good place to spend a sunny afternoon.
Back then Beijing had only 4 or 5 subway lines so the only way to get there was taking a bus. And that was what we did. But after a few minutes the bus stopped in the middle of the road; it seemed there was something wrong with the engine. We waited a few seconds while the driver tried to start it again, but it was all in vain. I was expecting that we would be told to get off and wait for the next bus.
At this point of the story I need to explain that Beijing buses were usually handled by two workers. One was the driver, of course, and the other was a person, usually a woman, seating in the middle of the bus and in charge of selling the tickets. (All of these ladies had the amazing superpower of knowing who had swiped the card and who needed to buy a ticket, even though they were not sitting by the entrance door and buses were always very crowded).
So, back to the bus malfunction: instead of telling us to leave, the woman in charge of selling the tickets yelled: “Everybody get off! We are going to push the bus!”. To my surprise, everybody except a few grannies got off and prepared to push the bus while the ticket lady counted: “One, two, three, push!”. I kept thinking that if this had happened in Spain people would have just left and no one would have lifted a finger.
Anyway, even though everybody helped pushing (well, except me, I was busy taking pictures of the event!), the bus didn’t move an inch, which didn’t surprise me at all, considering it was a huge bus. In the end the ticket lady gave up and told us to leave while they waited for the tow truck. Oh, and we were not refunded for the cancellation of the journey!