The accidentally exciting ride

I needed to get back to the train station to return to Shenyang. There weren’t any taxis around, and I didn’t want to take another one of these scary three-wheeled cars.
I saw an electric cart, and negotiated a fare to the train station.

The electric carts are all around touristy places. They remind me of a golf cart that has been enclosed in plexiglass. They don’t go very fast, but they’re fun.

Imagine this, enclosed in plexiglass.

Imagine this, enclosed in plexiglass.

I figured that since I was doing a touristy thing anyway, it might be fun to have a touristy car ride back to the station. It would be a nice way to end my day trip.

We made our way slowly down the street. Although the cart couldn’t go very fast, the driver assumed that since he was driving a vehicle that had four wheels, that he deserved a space on the road along the insane taxi drivers, sociopath bus drivers, and regular incompetent drivers. It made sense logically, but practically, it was less than responsible reasoning. Horns blared around us continuously as we caused traffic to flow around us, much like water in a raging river that has to flow around a large boulder in the middle of the stream.

I was just starting to get over the frightening thought that an angry bus driver could sideswipe us at any minute, and began to relax and enjoy the ride. This isn’t going to be bad at all, I thought to myself. A nice, relaxing ride to the train station.

That is when it started to rain.

And it wasn’t just a simple shower. It came down hard; it reminded me of being in a typhoon. Imagine someone dumping a bucket of water on your head, then imagine that the bucket never empties. That’s how much rain was coming down.

Now, I have to amend what I wrote about the cart being “enclosed” in plexiglass. It wasn’t so much “enclosed” as “pieces of plexiglass nailed to the side of the cart.” Seams between the sheets of plexiglass began to make themselves obvious as the rain started coming inside. It was dripping in, blown in, splashed in (remember the sociopath bus drivers?), seeping in. I was getting wet.

I shifted in to the middle of the seat, and avoided the worst of the water as best as I could. I held my backpack on my lap, and scrunched my shoulders in to make myself as small as possible. The driver didn’t seem to mind the rain too much, he kept “speeding” down the road toward the train station.

Well, I thought to myself, the train station is only about 10 minutes away. I’ll just have to hunker down and get through this. After all, it’s only water, right? The worst that can happen is that I’ll get wet.

That’s when the rain turned to hail.

Big hailstones pounded down on the top of the cart, which, it turns out, was really just a thin sheet of metal welded to the top of the cart. The sound of the pounding of hailstones on the sheet metal reminded me of a Caribbean steel drum that has been pounded flat, back into the shape of the oil can that it was originally made of, then children throwing rocks at it. Not musical at all.

And a little scary.

Pieces of hail bounced into the cart. Remember the terrible air pollution in Chinese cities? Well, that pollution is captured by precipitation. Including hail. That means that instead of little ice cubes plinking into the cart and falling to my feet, I was getting bombarded with little frozen poison pellets. I kicked them out into the street as best as I could.

And oh, the potholes in the road. The cart had no suspension or shock absorbers at all, so I felt every pot hole reverberate up through every vertebra in my back. Since it was raining hard, there were about three inches of water on the road, which meant that the driver couldn’t see and avoid the potholes. We hit them without warning, and every time we hit one, it was like Christmas morning, except that instead of Santa leaving presents in your stocking, he kicks you in the butt.

We finally made it to the train station, except that there was a big pedestrian plaza in front. The station itself was about 100 yards away. The cart couldn’t drive on the plaza, so I had to walk across it. In the rain. And the wind. And the six inches of accumulated water on the ground.

My feet got a little damp.

Up to my knees.

My umbrella eventually just snorted and gave up, realizing that it wasn’t keeping much rain off me. Like a moron, I ran across the plaza, as if running was going to keep me from getting any wetter.

It didn’t.

The only good thing about the experience was that I was traveling alone. Because I didn’t have to share the experience with anyone else, no one will resent my decision to take the electric cart, and be mad at me for the rest of their life. So, you’re welcome, everybody!


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