- Only a month remains for us here in Zhoukou. I’ve enjoyed my time here and Steve really loves it. They very much want us back next fall, especially as they have no other native speakers lined up (the other three are retiring), so who knows? While biking around the city and countryside this past academic year I’ve noticed many local practices that I never would have seen if I wouldn’t have been riding a bike. Most are charming, others are not. In the former category, the harvests. Every week or two another crop is brought in by fleets of three-wheelers from the fields to small central wholesalers for purchase. This week it’s garlic. Semi tractor trailers full of it. The air is redolent with the pungent harvest.
A practice that falls into the latter category is the habit many motorists have of laying on the horn if there is a bike, scooter, or three wheeler anywhere in sight. It doesn’t matter if I’m across the median going the opposite direction. The purpose of a horn is to supposed to be to get the attention of someone to let them know you’re there, but here it borders on harassment. The law of the jungle prevails on the roadways, though I hear they are slowly getting a little better about obeying traffic rules.
Queuing up does not come naturally . It’s also true that many scooter and three wheeler operators take chances and seem oblivious in their interactions with motorists and others, but the honking often is completely unwarranted. It becomes like the boy who cried wolf, and widely ignored. The other day I passed a driving school car creeping along on a little used section of four lane. I sensed a hesitation, followed by the horn blast and realized the instructor had probably just told the student to honk. I turned around and wagged my finger no, it was obvious that we had seen each other and there was no need for it. I was wondering why they would teach it when I realized maybe it’s like the old car trip game of “slug bug” many of you played as kids. Every time you saw a Volkswagen you hit the person next to you in the car, so you were trained to always be on the lookout for them. Maybe they’re taught to honk every time they see a bike or scooter, no matter where. While intensely annoying (I’m usually thinking of unkind thoughts and hand gestures I don’t carry out), I now wonder if honking might be a conditioned response. It makes me a little less incensed to think they are on the lookout for us. I think I can live with that. Now if they could just keep it to a light tap if they must, unless it’s really needed.