Wet and Wild

“Where is the drain system?” my colleague asked. “It’s underwater!”

That’s what happens to the roads when it rains more than a few drops in the rural-industrial area we drove through today, just outside the small Chinese city I’ve been spending so much time recently. Completely and utterly flooded!

To be fair, it was raining considerably. In fact, it was pouring. And that’s a highly enjoyable situation when you’re an ignorant foreigner sitting inside a comfortable and dry bus, being driven by a driver that’s been sent on a defensive driving course. It means your transportation is a billion times safer and more comfortable than anyone else’s on the same roads. And at the same time anyone else, poor chaps that they are, is absolutely hilarious to watch.

Not even because I’m dry and they are wet. It’s simply because of the absurdness you come across. One of the least of which is the four guys squeezed together on one small motorcycle. Its owner was of course kind enough not to have his mates from the factory walk home through the rain and so he invited them to tag along, looking like a pack of sandwiches. All warm and cozy, if it wasn’t for the rain.

Even more fun to see are the hordes of cyclists, mopedists and motorbikeists that end up stranded in the middle of the road, ankle-deep (or worse) in the water, their underpowered engines or legs unable to pull them through. And then the other thing is that, due to the combination of bad roads and a smooth body of water covering this up, many a car is seen at a strange angle, front axle broken in one of the many majestic potholes  that people would normally drive around.

And finally, of course, there are those that seek to make things even worse. Not for themselves, but for unsuspecting motorists. In order to be able to cross the road without getting wet feet, a bunch of guys were building a makeshift stepping-stone type of bridge, using big chunks of concrete. Sticking out above the water only just, it’s only a matter of time before the first cars lose a wheel or two.

The most amazing thing, however, is the fact that the terrible weather did not lead to any form of delay, whatsoever. If anything our driver made it to the hotel faster than usual, despite that there wasn’t any less traffic. The Chinese just don’t seem to slow down in the rain, much unlike in the UK or the Netherlands where every drop is an excuse to bring out the sheep in people and queue up like if in slaughtering house.

I’m not exactly sure why the Chinese are different in that, but one plausible explanation is in the nature of road markings. Where the white lines are normally nothing more than a suggestion, ignored on a massive scale, a flooded road makes them completely invisible. As a result, the Chinese are able – or daring enough – to squeeze one or two more cars in the width of the road and, as we all know, that creates extra capacity. You wouldn’t recommend it, but it definitely works!

Of course it also increases the number of people running into trees and holes in the shoulder of the road, but at least that entertains foreigners and it hardly creates any road blockages.

Besides, no Chinese were (seen) hurt during the writing of this blog post!

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