Thursday, February 09, 2006

The Scent of Spring

Day 27 of the torturous 40-day Spring Festival Travel Period. As if conditions weren't already bad enough on China's overcrowded trains, travellers heading back to work or university may be noticing a peculiar pong permeating their packed carriages. As reported in the China Daily, sales of incontinence nappies in Guangdong supermarkets rocketed just prior to the beginning of the holidays due to massive demand from passengers anticipating trouble getting to the loo on their journey home. "In this period, a common train has to transit 2,000 passengers, with only around 1,000 seating tickets," Guangzhou Railway Group officer Zhang Dazhi told the newspaper.

This news - and shocking quote - was rapidly syndicated across the world. Such is the level of interest in this story that it cropped up in all kinds of unlikely places. The issue was discussed by British comedian Ricky Gervais on his weekly Guardian podcast last Sunday (though the team were under the erroneous impression that Chinese trains didn't have any toilets), I received a 'Oh-my-God-just-seen-the-tv' kind of letter from an ex-girlfriend, appalled and utterly incomprehending of what the devil was going on in my chosen country of residence. From top to bottom, it seems the world's media wants their piece of the (poo) pie (Disclaimer: what's a good story to the western media is good for us too....we couldn't resist making a little mention in the mag too).

The China Daily ended its absorbing report on the issue by stating that, during the peak travel period last year, some passengers became so deranged by their conditions that they jumped out of the carriages. The tally of people lost to temporary insanity this year is as yet unknown. The madness, for 13 more days at least, goes on. I'm just glad I took the plane.

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