Nowhere is it more evident just how many people China has within its borders, as it is on the the Guangzhou subway during the morning rush.
Between 7.30 to 9.45am, it is as if half of the entire Chinese population converges underground to partake in a sacred morning ritual.
It begins with the ding-dongs that accompany the emminent train arrival. As it pulls into the station and comes to a slow stop, the existing straphangers and soon-to-be passengers eye each other through the glass doors, mentally creating a battle strategy on how to beat their enemy in the seconds to come.
And certainly enough – each side has something to dislike the other for. For neither will wait for the other nor respect the unwritten, unofficial rules that have governed the subway behavior for decades. As soon as the doors open, the people on the platform make a collective umph as they thrust themselves into the oper doorway like a human cannon. Ironically, this move essentially ends up blocking the path of the very people who are supposed to create room for them by leaving.
Inside the train car, there is its own sort of ordeal taking place. People who have realized their time to get out is here often end up separated from the doors by a human sea that they need to part before they reach freedom. It is no short miracle either – likely akin to Moses parting the red sea. Both take a similar Herculean amount of effort.
But in spite of themselves, some people have gotten off, some have gotten on, and life is about to move. The lucky ones who got inside are giving off a Dr. Evil-like smirk to the dissapointed folks outside who simply did not fit.
And then, seconds before the doors shut themselves, an opportunistic guy/woman/grandmother leapfrogs from the platoform into the crowd inside the train – almost like a rockstar disposing himself to his fans by jumping from stage into the crowd.
The doors close. In a few minutes, this will repeat all over again.