I thought I would share a funny story that demonstrates the craziness of riding the bus in Beijing. Yesterday I had 50 minutes before class and I was in a hurry (the trip usually takes 20-40 minutes depending on your luck, and I still had to make copies).
As I got to the intersection outside our apartment, I noticed that two of my buses (#656) had just left the bus stop on the opposing side of the street. Thinking that this would mean 20 minutes of waiting for the next one, I ran up and knocked on the bus doors as it waited by the light and pleaded with the driver. I got the cold shoulder and was directed back to the stop to wait. I guess that’s one of the few traffic rules that people always follow in China.
Worried I would wait a long time for the next bus (I had just seen two), I decided to hail a cab. Right as I got to the street corner to hail a cab, another #656 bus pulled up to the stop. I ran the half a block to the stop, but still missed the bus as it pulled away. Frustrated, I started walking back to the corner to catch a cab when, luck would have it, another #656 bus pulled up at the stop. This time I made it on, and I was set to go, or so I thought.
One stop later my bus stopped, and the driver dismounted unexpectedly. I thought maybe he had gone to check something outside, and so we all waited. Minutes passed, and I started getting nervous again. I asked the woman next to me (no small feat), what was going on. She said the driver’s stomach was bad. Everyone was milling around wondering what to do next.
At that moment, another bus I could take (#562) pulled to the stop. I decided to be proactive and raced off my stranded bus to catch the new #562, but to no avail because it pulled away too quickly. Worried, I ran back to get on the stranded #656 when all of a sudden everyone was getting off of it. Confused, I looked around and saw that everyone was now getting on to another #656 bus that had just pulled into the stop. So finally I joined everyone on the new #656 and made my way to school in about 25 minutes.
This experience was classic. In a period of about 10 minutes, I saw five buses from the same route. Other times I have gone 20 minutes without seeing any. That’s the unpredictability of riding the bus in China.