Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Maybe I Don't Want To Chinese After All

A few weeks ago I blogged about China. Actually, I "tied together" two totally unrelated items that both had "China" in the name and pretended it was a coherent post. It's what I do.

Anyway, in retrospect I have decided that I don't want to be Chinese after all. Let me explain. Last week L was in Urbana-Champaign for a few days. On the way down she got caught in this. Because we live in America, and we had roads before the interstate, L was able to exit I-57, travel south on U.S. 45, and get back on I-57 south of Kankakee. It took her over seven hours to get to C-U instead of two and change, but she got there.

Had she been in China she could apparently expect to be on the road another couple of weeks. Northwest of Beijing there is a traffic jam that extends for 60 miles, and has already been there for 10 days. The road is full of trucks carrying illegally mined coal from Inner Mongolia. We use a lot of coal in America too, but we mostly keep it off the roads. Anyway, this article says that the jam moves at roughly 1/3 of a mile per day, and that the police are trying to reroute some shipments of essentials off the road. The entire jam is caused by (a) too many trucks, (b) construction (apparently the orange cone is the national summer tree of China too), and (c) a few breakdowns etc. In other words, the same things that cause traffic jams everywhere. Except this one will last three more weeks.

A few things to ponder. How long will this jam last once the trucks start running out of gas? I say forever, but I may be proven wrong. How long can you live in a truck moving 1/3 of a mile a day? Wouldn't it make sense to drive in shifts? The people in the first 1/3 of the jam could drive from midnight to 8 a.m. The second third from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and the last 1/3 from 4 p.m. to midnight. Then they could do their 1/3 of a mile all at once, instead of a few inches at a time. And we won't talk about the fumes, the garbage, the excrement, and all the other foulness sure to be on the side of the road when this is over.

By the way, in German a traffic jam is called a "Stau" and there is a show called . . . the Stauschau (Stau Show). The best part of the Stauschau? It is a show about traffic jams, and their three webcams cover . . . their studios. Wouldn't want to show me the Autobahn, would you? Here are some actual traffic cams for the curious.

UPDATE: At least one source says that they had reporters drive the Chinese highway in question today and the traffic jam is . . . gone. MSNBC had the same experience. The thing is, I can't decide if it is scarier to live somewhere that can have multi-week traffic jams, or somewhere that 60 KM worth of trucks can "disappear" overnight.

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