Jared Ning


china chronicles: art museum episode


so i wanted to go to the art museum.  asked hostmom how to get there.  ”it’s real easy,” she says.  ”you can take the bus.  there’s a bus stop right in front of the museum and you don’t even have to change buses.”  nice.  she gives me directions.  next day, i get up all ready to go.

there’s several different kinds of buses in beijing.  the nicest ones look like the buses you would imagine in africa.  dirty, beat up, emit large amounts of smoke, make weird noises, no a/c, wobbly, squeaky, etc.  every time the driver stops, the engine dies.  no, seriously, they have to restart the engine before they can move again.  they have all different kinds of lines and you have to find the right number to get to where you want.  when you get on, they don’t have the little thingy where you drop in your coins.  they have a special person that goes around and collects cash and gives you a paper ticket.  actually, you just give her cash when you feel like it.  once in a while she’ll go around the bus to check to see if everybody has a ticket.  and when you get off, you’re supposed to show her your ticket.  i’m sure you can imagine how easy it would be to get a free ride.

so i’m supposed to take the 103.  half an hour’s ride if there isn’t any traffic.  hostmom told me to ask the ticket lady to tell me when to get off.  i figure i’d just ask her after about 20 minutes.  well, 15 minutes later, we stop at a very dirty place and a surprisingly large amount of people get off.  no, make that everybody is getting off.  i look around.  umm, i don’t see an art museum.  but ok.  get off and the bus starts to drive away.  but then i see it stop a few feet from where it kicked all of us off.  people are starting to get on.  was this a ploy to get me off the bus?  did i do something wrong?  i hear somebody say something about a u-turn.  i think i went the wrong way (surprise surprise).  i think i’m at the end of the line.  hmm, if i get on, i’ll look like an idiot to the ticket lady.  ”heh heh heh, funny lookin american is lost, heh heh heh.”  i think i’ll wait for the next one thank you.

103.  that’s me.  not many people on this bus.  i ask the ticket lady if it goes to the art museum but she doesn’t answer me.  she’s talking to these three ladies sitting outside.  i ask her again and again, and she doesn’t even acknowledge me.  finally she looks up at me with a weird face.  she says something i can’t understand and her and the three ladies outside start laughing.  mkay, i think i’ll just sit down now.  maybe i should just get off and get a taxi.  nah, he’ll probably take me to the great wall and charge me a billion rmb (about $10 us).  bus only costs a buck.  i ask the ticket lady again if she could warn me when we get close to the art museum.  she ignores me again with a smile on her face.  and then she helps this old lady with a kid find a seat.  thanks lady, what service.  we get to an intersection and the bus stops because a stupid car has eeked it’s way through the intersection and the bus can’t turn without hitting it.  mean ticket lady runs over to my window and practically lays on me to look out the window.  excuse me, lost american sitting down here, can i have some air now?  i think she did it on purpose.

let’s see, since it took me 15 minutes to get lost (that’s actually pretty good for me), and it takes 30 minutes to get to the art museum going the right way, then i’ll ride the bus this way for 45 minutes and i should be there in no time…

…hour and a half later, i hear the recording say something that resembled the art museum.  i get up and walk towards the door.  it opens and i look around but see no art museum.  well, it’s probably around here somewhere, i’ll just get — ok nevermind.  door closes and bus starts moving again.  get off at the next stop on impulse.  i’m so lost.  i ask around if anybody knows where the art museum is.  keep on cruisin.  wangfu hotel.  hey, this is where i stayed 10 years ago.  now i can just call my dad and ask him to pick me up.  keep on cruisin.  art museum!  woohoo!  let’s see, entrance, entrance, entrance.  hey, there’s an opening over there.  heart starts pumpin, i’m gettin excited.  turn the corner.  hard hats.  hard hats everywhere.  why is everyone wearing hard hats?  and why is there scaffolding around the building?  is this supposed to be artistic?  son of a…!

heart in my shoes, i walk back to the bus stop that i missed the first time.  bunches of people.  i’m going to get robbed on the bus.  but i don’t care, i’m going home.  ”everybody scoot in!” ticket lady shouts.  nobody moves, of course.  people, i’m going home on this bus whether you like it or not.  nobody moves.  fine, i’ll just stand on the steps.  grab a hold of a rail.  whoosh!

son of a…!  door slams shut taking my arm along with it.  the rail that i grabbed was part of the door.  i almost stumbled down, if it’s possible to stumble down two steps.  ”door closing!”  oh, gee, thanks for the warning, ticket lady.  here’s your stupid dollar.  you know what, have two dollars, take your kids to the art museum.

so i’m standing in the well of the bus holding on to dear life since nobody will move.  i bet if the door flings open, i’ll get squashed like a cartoon.

that’s it.  i squeeze my way through some sweaty people and find a spot.  bus stops and about another thousand people get on.  ok, can’t breathe.  hey now, i don’t know you, get off me please.  and, dude, i hope you’re enjoying my armpit.  probably the first time you’ve smelled deodorant huh?

finally get to my stop, first time i got it right all day.  my arms feel like they’re down at my ankles from holding on so tight to the rail.  get home and tell hostmom my story.  so that’s my art museum episode even though there really was no art museum.  at least i only spent two bucks.  well, three hours and 2 bucks.  the end.  miss you guys!