A couple of weeks ago, Fiona, my Mandarin teacher, took me to buy a metro card and we grabbed a train to the People’s Square station so we could go to the China Unicom store and get my Chinese phone number. As we approached the entry there was a security check. I was familiar with them as I’d gone through a number of them during my earlier trip to Beijing.
Fiona, however, just walked past the outstretched arm of the security
guard attendant and proceeded through the entry gate. “You don’t have to do that,” she said as I put my bag on the conveyor belt, “nobody does.” The uniformed rent-a-cop just shrugged and let her past. “Aren’t you supposed to use the security lane?” I asked Fiona. “It’s too slow,” she replied. “I don’t even think they work,” she continued, pointing at the attendant sitting in front of a monitor, but staring into space and not at the screen. Fiona explained that the only rules that are enforced, in China, are those that are profitable; there is no money in security checkpoints.
Today,Mr. Yao didn’t show up to take me to the chiropractor, so I walked to the metro station to grab the #2 over to the Puxi side of the river for an adjustment (can I say I love our new international medical plan–unlimited, no-charge chiropractic visits; I go once a week.) I wasn’t sure how long the short trip would take and I could hear a train entering the station so as I approached the entry gates and the attendant pointed to the conveyor belt I just brushed right past in my best Shanghainese style and scanned my metro card.
I am learning that in China many things are just for appearance sake –face– but in reality the rules and regulations are more like the Pirate’s Code:
“And thirdly, the Code is more what you’d call guidelines than actual rules.”–— Captain Hector Barbossa