A week or so ago, as I walked to the spot where we meet our school van for rides to work, I chanced upon something so rare, so nearly impossible, so unexpected…that obviously I whipped out my cell phone to take a picture and started formulating this blog post in my head. Honestly, no one would believe me otherwise. What did I see?
Chinese people waiting in line.
An orderly, calm, quiet, single file line…in China. No pushing. No shouting. No cutting. And no policemen or rent-a-cops around to encourage this behaviour – they did it on their own. Newcomers to the line simply walked up to the end of it and took their place and waited…in China. Did I mention that this happened in China?
And lest you think poorly of me for thinking poorly of Chinese people, so were my two coworkers already waiting at our designated pick-up spot. They were staring at this phenomenon with their jaws literally wide open. When I joined them and said hello, they couldn’t even tear their eyes away from the scene, as if they thought if they did, the entire thing would evaporate into thin air.
We gaped in silence for a couple of minutes, not speaking. Finally, one of my colleagues asked the question we all wanted the answer to.
“What are they waiting for?”
If you’re familiar with China, you’ll understand our amazement. People just don’t wait in lines here. There doesn’t seem to be such a thing as a queue. It doesn’t happen.
It’s more of a “cluster”.
My head logically tells me that the reason for this is that there are so many people in China, and that Chinese people are told that there are so many people in China so very often, that citizens really are convinced that if they wait patiently, they will never get what they came for. That whatever they are lining up for will have run out by the time they get to the front of the line (and given the history of poverty, food rations, etc., in China’s relatively recent history, it’s not that far off). Also, it’s pretty easy to justify cutting in line when everyone else is doing it, I guess.
But back to those people on the street near my home. Just automatically standing in a line, like it was the most normal thing in the world for them to be doing (which it is, except that this is China, so it isn’t).
What were they waiting for?
I know the answer, but that’s what this contest is about. I want you to give me your best guess, in the comments section, as to what those people so willingly lined up for.
The rules? None, really. Guess as much as you want.
(I will be away for the next week and a half or so, visiting my husband’s family for Spring Festival, and internet/VPN access may be limited or non-existent on my end. Go ahead and guess anyway; when I have a chance, I’ll go through the comments and approve them, so don’t worry if your guess doesn’t show up right away.)
Contest closes? February 14, 2013. And yes, I will post the answer after that, rather than keeping you in infinite suspense (though, that would be fun, too).
The prize (if someone should guess correctly)? Well, that’s the catch – there isn’t really a prize, unless you count the pleasure of knowing you figured out this puzzle, as well as the everlasting respect of me and all my blog readers (that’s like 7 whole people’s respect, guys!). You’ll be able to brag to your friends about this one for years to come. And my readers, when we see you walking down the street, we’ll all be like, “Hey, I totally know that guy/girl. He/She knows how to get Chinese people to stand in line!” I promise.
So, take a gander at the picture again, get the gears turning in your head, and give me your best guesses!