Quicker to Wok

Ten days of idling and no end in
sight: The epic traffic jam outside Beijing extends for 62 miles, from the
capital to the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. There are conflicting reports
as to whether it was caused by construction on the Beijing-Tibet Expressway
that forced motorists onto National Expressway 110 or vice-versa. No matter,
the main point regarding the motorists, most of who are refusing to take
detours (that include tolls), is that it must stink to be them.
True, traffic is bad in Moscow. And even Atlanta. But nine days? One could take
a leisurely drive across the United States in less time. Imagine what would happen
if a similar jam occurred on a Los Angeles freeway. Suddenly, Joel Schumacher’s
“Falling Down,” in which Michael Douglas’s character’s violence spree
is precipitated by gridlock, doesn’t seem as farfetched.
But as of yet, there have been no reports of violence relating to the traffic
jam. And indeed that appears to be true of driving in China in general. It’s
not that driving in China is orderly — just the opposite. But in general the
chaos is commonly suffered and rarely leads to the everyday road-rage violence
that dominates media coverage in the United States.
There are probably many reasons for this, but surely one is that the Chinese
populace is used to such indignities. After all, the central government has
relocated more than a million people to make way for the Three Gorges dam, an
eminent domain grab that dwarfs anything ever contemplated by Robert Moses. At
least the people heading to Beijing have homes to return to, though it remains
to be seen if they’ll ever reach them.

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