Today was "Pai-dui Day" in Beijing. That’s pronounced pie-dway, by the way. In the ongoing effort to improve the manners of Beijingers in the run-up to the Olympics (now only 331 days away), the city government has decreed that the 11th of each month is a day to get people to stand in lines. It started back in March, and I first wrote about it here. I’ve dubbed it "pai-dui day." On this day each month, hundreds of retirees are deputized (red arm bands of course) to patrol the bus stops, subway platforms, and other places where lines might contribute to a more harmonious society to wave their flags and blow their whistles and get people to line up. Surprisingly, it seems to be working (at least for one day a month).
Last night as a colleague and I were boarding a train in a small town in Shandong province to return to Beijing, we encountered a platform officer who was taking her job of getting passengers to line up very very seriously. About 5 minutes before the train pulled into the station, they allowed all the passengers onto the platform. When the train came in, we’d have 5 minutes to get on before it rolled out again. We asked where exactly car 8 might stop, and she waved us and a group of about 10 others down the platform, where we sort of milled around. A few minutes later she came by barking orders at us to line up. We half-heartedly complied, and then she started barking YI PAI, YI PAI (one line; single file). We all obeyed, and stood there at attention in a neat row. Until the train pulled in. Then, the door to carriage 8 stopped about 15 feet away and we quickly descended back into what my traveling companion called "a casserole".
Oh well, that was yesterday, which wasn’t really pai-dui day anyway!