Friday Oct 21, 2016

Peak time Beijing subway ride a battlefield

2011-12-27 14:08     Web Editor: Xu Aqing comment
Beijing's subway can get insanly crowded during rush hour.

Beijing's subway can get insanly crowded during rush hour.

(—Veterans of the morning rush hour in Beijing would merit the honor of being called capital -T tough for their engagement in this battle with millions of other subway users. How brutal can a commute to work get anyway, you may well ask.

Well, one of my friends complained the other day that she waited in line while five full-to-bursting trains passed before she could finally get on. One foreigner, I read, got his nose stuck in the subway door, but accidents will happen in insanely crowded and chaotic conditions. The suffocating crush comes when the subway arrives and the doors open; people are trying to leave and to enter at the same time and do it as fast as possible. Once you are at the front of the line, you are sure to get on, especially when the masses behind you are pushing (no worries, they will). You don't have to propel yourself forward; you are carried into the tube, like my colleague Vicky every morning.

I offer tip No.1- be fast, be really fast. Approaching the security screening machine after you've entered, take off your bag at least one meter in advance and put it on the conveyor belt as you walk by. Once you are on the platform, get yourself in the queue. Take off your earphones and gloves and put your cell phone safely into your pocket. Make sure your grip on your bag is firm and concentrate on getting behind the biggest and most aggressive front runners. Choose the line up led by a strong man- his existence on the team increases the chances the scrum will be somewhat organized and peaceful line with no one trying to cut in. Finally, be lucky.

Subway battle

Once you've survived the charge you must find a decent spot to endure the ride: a place where the air is comparatively less smelly, it's not too hot, and passengers aren't struck together like bricks in a wall. You will have to be determined while you wedge and press into the crowd and apologize your way to the perfect spot. Do it inch by inch, no pauses, with all your belongings firmly in hand. Otherwise, you may find yourself choking with your face pressed up against another's for an insufferably long time.

Battle planning is recommended too; get to know every subway line you take. Though they are more or less crowded, some offer a friendlier ride, like line 2 and 4. Study the subway map and choose a route that avoids lines 10, 1, 5 and 13.

This experienced "soldier" advises you to leave white coats at home, for they won't be white very long after numerous run-ins with others. And tighten up your shoelaces before heading to the station, as I hear people have lost their shoes or tripped on their own shoestrings during the whole pushing and squeezing process.

And one last thing... if you take the madly crowded Batong Line in the morning, you better get to the subway station as early as 6 am, or prepare to wait for several packed trains to abandon you there before it's finally clear enough for you to get on.

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