What a dispiriting time of year to come back!
We haven't seen temperatures on the wrong side of zero for all that time (and only a few days on the wrong side of 15).
Henceforth is a collection of miscellany, from the cutting room floor, as it were: items that did not fit my theme at the time, or that I just plain forgot.
People in Shanghai do not know how to use elevators. They press both "up" and "down" buttons and pile into the first car that shows up. This poses a problem for those of us who try to use them in the way intended by the designers: the cars are always full. But, I hear you say, how often do you use elevators in a city you're just visiting? In Shanghai, plenty of times. The first 4 to 6 floors of all the office buildings are dedicated to retail. A goodish numbers of restaurants are encamped there so we were always using elevators (they do not seem to believe in escalators; they take up too much rentable square footage, I assume). They do, however, know how to get out of an elevator in a hurry. We had a malfunction one time and dropped a few feet in free fall, which jammed the doors. I was able to manhandle them partially open, at which point three petite females slammed Loanne into the wall and scarpered before we could blink twice.
As an aside, it's always interesting to see the floor numbering scheme. As I've noted, the Chinese are extremely superstitious and think that the number 4 is very bad luck indeed. So high-rise buliding floor numbers will skip floors 4, 14, 24, etc... and all the 40s. In our building in Kuala Lumpur, you had a choice: floor 4 could also be called 3A, so you didn't need to have a "4" in your address, although people visiting you would still have to press the button marked "4", with the "3A" next to it. How this is less unlucky is for better minds to sort out.
Queuing, or not queuing, are very distinct cultural attributes. As previously noted, Chinese people do not queue. In the subway, people exit and enter the trains simultaneously. In Budapest, when we were visiting the magnificent neo-classical Parliament building, there was one Chinese lady who always had to jostle her way through the group in order to get to the next spot before others. I could have wrung her neck. Of course, once there, she had to wait for everyone else to get there so she gained nothing, didn't see anything in between, but she beat us there. I always thought this kind of behaviour to be due to the fact that the Chinese, at least in the cities, have always lived in cramped conditions and that having regard for other's feeling would be a sure path to emotional dysfunction. But in super-overcrowded Bangkok, people waiting to board the el trains patiently wait to the side while passengers stream out before boarding themselves. It is the most civilized train-boarding city I've ever visited, better than anywhere in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, three countries where nobody, but nobody, ever jaywalks and everybody, bur everybody, stands on the right of the escalator when not actively climbing.
Needless to say, jaywalking is just about mandatory in Vietnam, but lethally dangerous in big cities like Shanghai, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur. It's pretty much accepted practice in Rome, where cars react to pedestrians identically whether they are on a crosswalk or not. It always amazes me that Calgarians, who expect all cars within 200 yards to stop as soon as they set foot on a crosswalk, don't get mowed down with monotonous regularity when traveling to places like Rome or Southeast Asia.
The handling of garbage can tell you a lot about the socio-economic development of a country, as well as its culture. In Vietnam, it's very simple: just toss it where you stand, sit or lie. It's true that you often see women bent over a broom, seemingly sweeping things, without apparent effect (they are bent over because the broom handles are just a few feet long - a fortune awaits the bold entrepreneur who comes up with longer broom handles). In Shanghai, people routinely discard papers, cigarette packs and such, but an army of sweepers, armed with full-length medieval-looking brooms, keep the litter to a minimum. The one thing no one can do anything about is spitting. Even the Butcher of Beijing (my affectionate nickname for the madman known as Mao) couldn't eradicate this cultural trait. He couldn't eradicate religion either; one could say that the Chinese spit religiously.
Thailand is relatively clean, even though you can never find a garbage can. Ditto Malaysia.
In Budapest, we must have been there during the annual attic-cleaning period. One Friday night, the streets were packed with derelict furniture and other garbage. The next day, it was all gone. Vienna is of course spotlessly clean. The Baroque era buildings look like they were put up yesterday (except, of course, that no one today has the skills, or the desire, to do anything of the sort). In the residential areas of Rome, you take your sorted garbage to a series of Dumpster-like containers that are sprinkled all over the place. Each station has containers for paper, glass, kitchen scraps, etc... This being Italy, however, collection frequency is not always as it should be and people just leave their bags by the curb when the containers are full. This creates frequent stink zones on the sidewalks, and if your cafe or bar happens to be in close proximity to the dump zone, you can kiss your patio custom goodbye for a few days.
Naples has a colourful history when it comes to garbage. This is what it looked like a few years ago:
This is more my idea of Italian pin-ups:
Upon returning to Calgary, I noticed that City Hall's War on Cars is still in full swing. I can't imagine how miserable driving in and out of downtown at rush hour must be. But the 1% (or less) of the population who cycle to work are now much happier. Bully for them. Maybe the 99% could start their own Occupy movement in front of City Hall? But I forget, they're likely to have jobs.
Here is a preview of more misery to come for those needing to enter or exit on the west side of downtown: when Calgary Transit's long-awaited 4-car trains come into service, something interesting will happen. As the Northwest train gets across the river, it has to stop at traffic lights at 4th and/or 5th and/or 6th and/or 7th Avenue. The outbound train has to stop as well. The distance between avenues is exactly 3 cars long. At rush hour, this will mean waiting a few more light cycles to get in or out of downtown. Of course they could give the trains control over the lights, for the exact same results. Do they even know of this? Their track record is not inspiring.
All this means thousands of cars idling for a longer time, something the pistachios (them are green nuts) are supposed to be against.
In that vein,Loanne and I have been together for 18 years and 4 months, which corresponds exactly to the period when global temperatures have refused to budge and go anywhere, flying in the face of all the computer models used to predict doomsday. The science is settled? Bullshit!