When the novelty of being in China first started to wear off, my ability to cope was saved by a coffee/tea shop that was on the fourth floor overlooking a busy interchange.
Sitting there, watching hundreds of people trying to negotiate a roundabout, I moved from alienation, to smug superiority, to a feeling of oneness and contentment. Who’s to say that going around a roundabout in one particular direction is any better than any other anyway?
I started to feel very affectionate towards these distant cousins of mine. They were trying so hard to be like their rich relatives, but there was so much they still didn’t understand. Yet they got along, even when everyone else was on the wrong side of the road. It’s all a matter of perspective, anyway, and here they were cheerfully accomodating other people’s perspectives and getting to where they wanted to be without any major upsets.
And the policeman sitting under a chair in the shade keeping a lazy eye on the mayhem was a real class touch. Why is it that police states seem to enforce traffic laws less than the ‘free’ world?
It put my own clashes of perspective into a different light. I realised that even when you’re going against the flow the flow will still accomodate you, and that getting worked up because someone (or all of them) is doing it wrong doesn’t really help.
Since coming to Taiwan traffic intersections have been a continuing source of delight and wonder. They’re a kind of microcosm of Taiwan, with most of the same characteristics.
Cops wave you into illegal maouvres that would get you arrested in other countries - and how do those guys work together like they do anyway? It’s like telepathy sometimes. The guys directing traffic are sooo cool, martial law with style.
I saw an old old guy, part of that sub-culture we never mention, pedalling one of those trash-hauler things loaded to the brim with cardboard. Must’ve weighed a ton and there he was, toiling along at the base of the soon to be tallest building in the world in his conical hat. Quite paradoxical really, and the lights were about to change with him smack in the centre of the junction and all the BMWs in the world gunning their throttles at him. Suddenly his decrepit old machine accelerated dramatically and shot across the road, with the help of a big burly cop - shoulder to the load and a serene ‘all in a days work’ expression on his face.
I saw`an ambulance coast to a halt in the middle of a road junction, the siren running down like a vinyl record when you turn the power off. The crew were just sitting in the cab with perplexed expressions on their faces.
And I just love those Grand Prix starts, 3 seconds before the lights change and everyone is off, weaving around the guy who decided to run the red in the other direction. All the craziness and impatience of Taiwan, combined with that easy acceptance of stuff that would have had you screaming with rage in the west.