Whenever I return to Shandong (Zibo) with the kids to see their Chinese relatives, I have to pick up my train ticket in person before I can board the train returning us safely to Beijing. As I carry a passport and not a shenfenzheng 身份证 （Chinese ID card), I must pick the return ticket up in person rather than from the automated machines. I am used to this. The line-ups are often long but we factor in the time necessary and eventually I make it up to the window and collect my ticket. On this particular occasion, I fully appreciated the design of the turnstiles—something I’ve appreciated for years—and wanted to share.
Years ago, in 2007, when I first came to China on vacation (not yet to live), I was travelling alone to Shanghai and Suzhou during the October holidays. The line-ups to the train ticket windows were so dense, it was difficult to see the shape, let alone the progression of the queue. When I finally got to the window, I required elbows of steel to stop people from pushing themselves forward and in front of me to wave identity cards and money at the tellers in a completely uncivilized and impolite manner. It was a frenzy, to say the least. I can’t imagine how the tellers felt. (Besides relieved to be protected by glass!)
Looking at the design of these turnstiles, I am amused by this memory of my 2007 travels. Clearly, someone had to think of a way to force people in China to identity a queue and then take their turn.
These spinning circles provide one “pie-shaped” space for the person being served and another “slice” of space to the person who comes next, happily separating them in a diagonal distance that disallows the person behind the opportunity to lean forward and jump the queue.
When the person being served is finished, he or she then spins the turnstile to get out, which directly allows the person next in line to be “spun” and then “spit out” at the window. The design is brilliant. And Shandong, Zibo’s train station is very civilized and orderly. No need for elbows of steel. The turnstiles and their steely elbows have done the job for us.
Only in China!
Photos: Charlie fong (Wikipedia) and courtesy of Ember Swift