Real China on the Rail: #$%&$%&'()'!!

From Kunming to Chengdu, September 15-16th 2010


I smiled back at her. I thought it was just some sort of strong Chinese accent.

"#$%&$%&'()'!!!" ... again.

I smiled back again.

"#$%&$%&'()'!!! #$%&$%&'()'!!!"

"0, ow. Something must be wrong," I said to myself.

Not understanding anything else beside "wo ai ni" and "wo bu zhidao" which mean "I love you" and "I don't know", my only clue of understanding her #$%&$%&'()'!! was only by looking at her eyes. Her eyes seemed to be pointed to the train wall. My plastic bag stuffed with Chinese-French bread was hanging there. I touched it and immediately heard another #$%&$%&'()'!! And between that #$%&$%&'()'!! I heard something like "bu qe".

The sweet plump lady in front of me was now pointing at my plastic bag that was joyfully dangling left and right on the hook. Maybe she is telling me that I may not hang my plastic bag here. But I wasn't sure. I touched it again while giving her a questioning look. In return was a harder #$%&$%&'()'!! and another #$%&$%&'()'!!

I took the plastic bag off the train wall and put it on my lap. Her face looked more chubby because being sullen. Nevertheless, I didn't hear anymore #$%&$%&'()'!! from her after that.

Later on when Yudi offered me to take his seat while he went to the hard sleeper cabin where our other friends were, I began to think that maybe since that lady was the one sitting right next to the window, my plastic bag was bothering her view and that's why she didn't like me hang it there. Now that Yudi's seat is on the opposite side of the train, I think it's okay to hang my plastic bag on this hook. You know, my lap was already piled up with a folded-long coat and a book. The seat itself was just enough to sit upright. Just to sit. It was really inconvenient to read while holding the book with one hand and the plastic bag with another. Otherwise, the plastic bag would slip off my lap and fall on the train floor which was my worst fear. Why? That's another story to tell.

Moreover, a Chinese young man sitting across me also hung his coat on the hook.This was enough to justify my act. That sounds like dealing with sin, huh?

When Yudi came back and asked me to change seat again, I asked his permission to keep my plastic bag hung there. He said, he didn't mind.

An hour later, a train attendant whose uniform looked like a stewardess, passed by. Again I heard #$%&$%&'()'!!

I quickly got up to Yudi's seat and took off my plastic bag. I didn't dare to look at the sweet plump lady. When the Chinese young man who hung his coat on the hook saw me got an #$%&$%&'()'!!, he silently took off his coat from the hook. The "train stewardess" only gave him a meaningful look.

Unlike in Vietnam and not to mention Indonesia, the train attendant made sure every now and then that every luggage laid on the steel rack above the seats did not stick out exceeding the space on the rack. Every time she would tell the passenger to take the luggage down or to rearrange it so that it won't stick out of the rack. Well, that was I guessed she was saying.

So... maybe, you are not allowed to hang anything on the wall because of fear it might drop off and injure a passenger -- even though it's just a coat or even Chinese-French bread. This looks like the Japanese way of taking care of safety. That's good. But... why put a hook on the wall if you may not hang anything on it? What's the hook for, then? Aaargh, #$%&$%&'()'!!

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