Sunday, July 20, 2014

Only Goons Can Ride

I promise I am not making a joke at someone else's expense, nor am I criticizing anyone for using Chinglish. This could happen to anyone, anywhere.

First I'll say that the subway system in Wuhan goes out of its way to help English speaking passengers. Not only are all the signs in English but that pleasant voiced woman who announces impending stations and take offs does a great job of broadcasting those notifications in English. I particularly enjoyed the announcement for Pang Xie Jia with an American accent (pronounced 'Pan Shay DGhaaa') as though we should do 'jazz hands' on the last syllable.

For some reason that recording has changed. Although the announcements are still in English the station names are now said properly, in Chinese. I miss Pan Shay DGhaaa!! (jazz hands)

Another amusing aspect of riding subways was the 'Do Not' notifications. These were video loops playing on the on-board entertainment system. A small child screaming, a youth throwing paper on the ground, someone throwing up, spilling something... you get the idea. These are all behaviors that the transit system wishes to discourage. Complementing that on-board ad were large signs in every station, at platform level and street level. Those signs went further to indicate unwanted behavior: no begging, no eating, no loud music, no peeing. Perhaps 3 meters long and 1.5 meters high, 'do not's were depicted in white on a blue background.

You all know the 'do not' sign, right? Usually a round sign with a red border around the activity that is not to be partaken of, and a bold red line slashed diagonally through. 'No Smoking' is one you might be familiar with.

On that billboard there were 'do not's for smoking, begging, littering, eating, drinking, bothering... all of these were in the format mentioned above. However, when it came to 'do not pee' there was a depiction of a man in overalls and a hard hat letting loose. Looming menacingly over his stream was a large pair of scissors. I took it to mean that, if men pee in the subway they will become eunuchs. Apparently not gently, either.

I did my best to capture that image to reproduce it for you. Unfortunately the phone I took the picture on was lost that very day and, for some reason the transit authority saw fit to end its campaign for proper behavior from its riders. I have not seen that marquee or the ad loop since.

However, good intentions on the part of the transit authority prevail! To discourage commuters from trampling on one another during the few seconds the train is at a station, they have designated the outsides of the passenger flow as boarding while, between those boarding should stream exiters. To reinforce that direction our Transit Authority friends have placed arrows on the ground. Please see picture to that effect.

Simple, right?

Until my twisted mind took a gander. Note how the out-flowing arrow says 'exit': very good. Now the boarding arrow: 'go on'. Very close type, no space between the two words. Thus 'GOON'.

Anybody could make that mistake and this isn't much of one until you add to the mix that one must wrestle to board any public vehicle. Those without the fortitude to throw a few jabs or jockey for position might risk not being able to board. Stretching that concept out just a bit: wouldn't you say that one just about has to be a goon to ride mass transit? I thought so. That's why I laugh when I see this 'GOON' sign. It reminds me that I must be ruthless in boarding or get nowhere.

Not that that would be a bad thing this time of year. Subway stations are air conditioned. Many choose to dally underground during the brutal part of the day. Either they're abusing the comfort or they just aren't GOON enough to board.     

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