Chasing Cars

Anyone who followed my Indian driving experiences, will no doubt be as bemused as Mr B to learn that I have every intention of finding a way to drive in China too. I figure as a late starter, I can make up in obscure locations and languages what I’ve missed in actual driving hours (and ability).

This means I will either have to go through the whole training, theory and test again in Beijing or a miracle will happen and on return to Mumbai in a few weeks, I will actually be able to pick up my license from nice 3 star officer and “only” have to pass the Chinese theory test to get going. Those of you familiar with driving in Mumbai will be pleased to know that Beijing looks like a doddle by comparison (people almost always stay in the designated lanes! They signal more! They honk less! The roads are almost pot-hole free! They don’t respect pedestrian rights here either!)

As luck would have it, I’ve become hooked on a local Beijing TV show called Traffic Light.

Given that I understand only one word out of every 250,000 spoken by the serious traffic policeman presenter and his glamorous co-host (whose role seems to be nothing more than to stare at him and nod seriously), I’m inferring that it is a mix of live traffic updates from around the city (underlines the serious number of CCTV cameras here) and lectures against bad driving.

Glamorous co-host, stern policeman

Glamorous co-host, stern policeman

My favourite part of the show is when the cop reviews CCTV footage of various, often drink-related, accidents and general bad driving behaviour. He proceeds to show step-by-step the exact cause of the malhappenstances. All the time using one of those pens used by sports presenters who are trying to appear knowledgeable to highlight the various sins of the drivers. Trust me, the makers of The World’s Worst Drivers will have plenty to choose from in Beijing.

Highlights include:

  • The wedding party, complete with 4 limousines, that stopped on the highway to take advantage of a pretty strip of grass and take some photos of their special day.
  • The car on one of the city’s major ring roads during the evening rush hour, driving in the middle lane, inexplicably at 30mph with its hazard lights on. The cop then somberly cut to pictures of the 4-mile tailback this caused. Some kind of stern lecture ensued.
  • The baijiu loving truck driver who careened across 3 lanes of highway at 2AM, got stuck on the central reservation barrier and who, by sheer persistance, managed to free the cab of his truck and drive off. Some kind of stern lecture ensued.
  • Live coverage of the car that rammed into the back of another car so hard that the front car ended up on the roof of the car that rammed it.  The cops on the ground were at a loss as to how to proceed for a good 20 mins. Eventually the tow-truck driver who had been summoned to the scene decided to reverse slowly and dislodged the offending vehicle. The drivers of both cars stood on the kerb smoking.


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