Fight Club

I generally like the people in Wuhan. When I first told my Chinese friends back in the US I was moving down here, after commenting about the Wuhan summer, they all warned me to watch out for the Wuhanese because they were a bunch of hot headed nutters who spent all their time fighting. It wasn’t far from the truth, barely a day goes by that I don’t encounter at least one scuffle between at least two people. I’ve even gotten into it with a local driver because I gave him the finger when he cut me off on my bike, but it never came to blows because when he was mouthing off at me I had to say “look old chum, I’m sorry, but I can’t understand a word you’re saying.”

But if the locals are hot headed, they are also warm hearted. Beijingers generally see foreigners as an opportunity to be exploited. If you really really want to piss off a Beijing shopkeeper you pretend you don’t speak Chinese and listen to how much they sell the item you want to a local, only when they offer it to you for 100 yuan do you kick over to Mandarin and say “but you just sold it to that girl for 10.” But in Wuhan you only have to look confused and someone will always come over and see if you need help – I think it also has something to do with the general lack of foreigners in the city. Even so, I still can’t get over the fact that when the administrative officer at my hospital dropped my passport in the street someone picked it up and handed it to the police, and then refused to take any money for their act of goodwill.

But, as I said, they do like to fight. (If you don’t believe me, just go and look up the role Wuhan played in the Cultural Revolution. I’d give you a link, but for some reason I can’t Google it…) And it’s not just the men, the woman folk will get in there too, and if not raining blows down upon some victim who has exhibited the faintest hint of weakness, will at least contribute verbally to further provoke the situation, knowing it will be their husband and not they who will get the shit beaten out of them. It’s in these situations that I realize that maybe I’ve lived here too long because nowadays I find myself stopping along with everyone else to see how things will unfold. There was further evidence that I may be becoming inured to the violence when I was in Beijing and found myself watching a scuffle that was the most pathetic show of testosterone I’ve witnessed in a while and found myself thinking “for fuck’s sake will you stop shoving and throw a punch”

Fights can often be the result of a traffic ‘incident’. Two cars barely have to touch and the drivers will be out to inspect the damage. I was on a bus once and car pulled over to cut us off, causing the driver to brake so sharply that everyone was off the seats. The car driver accused the bus driver of scratching his car and things degenerated to the point where I was getting off the bus to try and defuse the situation.

Interestingly, quite the opposite happens when a car strikes a pedestrian or a cyclist. Occasionally, these can be quite horrific. When I was about 10, I saw a Rumbelows van hit a woman when it was doing 60 in a 30mph zone, so I get quite wound up seeing stuff like a guy knock down a woman and drive over her leg because he is on the phone.

Most of the time however, the accidents are far less dramatic. For example, today I saw a driver clip the handlebar of a moped with the door. The cyclist went down, got up immediately, exchanged some words with the driver and then, when he saw he was calling the insurance company and police (because he had scratched the door) the cyclist went back down and stayed down.

He sat in the road wearing a forlorn expression until he saw the police arriving and then slowly lay on his back, occasionally raising an arm or trying to turn on his side. It was a classic performance, a bit like watching a Sting movie. From looking at him you could tell this was a man who would be haunted by nightmares for months to come, there would probably be survivor guilt too, along with dizzy spells, nausea, fainting, numbness in the extremities, ringing in the ears, spates of bed wetting and memory loss. Heck, I would have given him 500 yuan for his efforts. He probably scuffed his trousers too.


2 Responses to “Fight Club”

  1. Pseu Says:

    Always interesting how culture differ. Thanks CB

  2. Jan Says:

    I don’t really see how you could describe a Sting movie as a “classic performance.” Sumner mishtake surely?

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