Beijing Subway – A public affair

The subway in Beijing intimidates me, especially not having had any prior interaction with it. However, since I was going to be in town for a while, it was time to make friends with the transit network.

The first introduction was with the ticket machine, and to my delight there was an ‘English’ option. Instantly I warmed to the experience. The directions were easy to follow and the screen brought up a very user friendly visual of the subway map. Each line was colour coded and transfer options easy to follow. It seemed effortless, just the way I like it.

I selected Xidan, which from what I could tell, was the closest station to my final destination. Cost? 2 RMB, equivalent to 40 cents. Cheap and easy – loved it!

I fed two, 1 RMB notes into the machine, which it spat out. Flipping the notes over, I tried again. Same response. Turning and flipping the notes over 3 more times with the same result and suddenly the cracks appeared in this new relationship.

Why…WHY??? I couldn’t understand why my cash wasn’t good enough for this piece of junk! I was giving it exactly what it had clearly asked for, and there was nothing wrong with my money, I’d taken the time to smooth out any creases, and there were no visible damages that would justify the rejection. I was frustrated and confused.

The lady waiting patiently in line behind me motioned that I needed to offer more money. Oh, it doesnt take 1 Rmb notes? Ok, no probs, I’ll put in a fiver (rejection) still not good enough? Fine, here’s a ten! Ignoring me?! Why don’t you just give me what I need, what I have requested, what I deserve! Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh!!!!

Just when I started thinking that I was way better than this and could easily catch a taxi, an angel who could speak english appeared and told me that sometimes these things are ‘really finicky and sensitive’, and I should try another 10 RMB note. But I don’t have another 10 RMB (pathetic voice)‘Here, take mine’ (hollywood teeth smile) and like a good little angel, he handed me the note that put the spark back into the day. Ticket in hand, and all stress forgotten, I was ready to give it another go.

Following the directions onto the platform, the monorail came within minutes and I was on my way. I love that the monorails in Beijing have TV screens, showing movie previews, cooking instructions, subway instructions, and a map of the subway. A map of the subway that had way more stations that what that creep of a ticket machine had showed me! The subway map on the monorail monitor not only informed me that there was a station at TiananMen East, right at the Forbidden City (my desired destination) but that there was a faster way to get there! A 3 (THREE) stop with 1 transfer option, rather than the 17 stop, with 2 transfers and a walk I had selected!

The ticket machine had misdirected me into taking a hot, stuffy, crowded, and sweaty 90 minute ride all around Beijing when what I needed was the 15 minute pleasant ride.

It was my own fault. I should have known there had to be more stations available and to look for the easier route.

I shrugged it off as a common ‘first timer’ mistake and ‘lesson learnt’. As George W. Bush wisely said ‘fool me once, shame on, shame on you. Fool me…you can’t get fooled again.’

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