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Xinguanren project 4. It’s easy to go home

May 7, 2012

“Going home has become easy.”


Yesterday CCTV reported, “First day of the spring rush at Chengdu, going home has become easy.” Those netizens who had been going through torment over buying tickets, could not stay calm, especially when told, “buying a ticket is no problem.” When we will enjoy the fortunate life which CCTV has described?

According to the report, Chengdu station has set up a temporary structure to sell tickets, made it possible for customers to use bank cards to pay, and by these and other measures have made it easy to buy tickets. The first day of the spring rush, lines are short inside the station, and customers said they had no problem buying train tickets. The report concludes, “buying train tickets is no harder than buying subway tickets,” and “buying tickets to return home has become easy.”

Several irritated netizens who had been going through the torment of trying to obtain tickets, pointed out that Chengdu is hardly the place to go to file this story. Chengdu is not a place people leave to go home at New Years, rather, Guangzhou station is a place likely to be crowded, with people trying to return to Chengdu.The direction of traffic is towards Chengdu, not away from it. Going to Chengdu on the first day of spring rush to check ticket sales makes as much sense as going to Guangzhou station after New Years day.

One netizen said, CCTV really had to rack their brains to think of a place where it is easy to buy a ticket. Another said, if it is so easy, why did his co-worker stand in line all night to get a ticket to go back to to Sichuan, without success? His friend was ready to go to a scalper and pay 150 yuan more, but still couldn’t find a ticket. In the world reported by CCTV, it is easy to buy a ticket. In the world the netizens live in, there are no tickets available. We wish we were living in the CCTV world, they sigh.

konjaku: response from a blog

Since 2002, during every spring rush it  has been my job to get railway tickets for people. I want to state clearly right away that I am not a scalper. The reason my friends and relatives ask me to buy tickets for them, and increasingly for their friends and relatives, is that I have a very close friend who works at the railway station.

In 2002, I had not planned to go home, but at the last minute circumstances changed and I decided to go. I ran to the station to buy a ticket, but like so many other people I went home empty handed. Not knowing what to do, I suddenly thought of calling my friend at the station. To my surprise, in less than 10 minutes, my friend told me he had obtained a ticket for me. When I went to pick it up, besides the ticket, he had a complaint: “Are we not friends? Other things I can’t help you with–at least for this one thing, who should you come to but me?  This is my duty.” There was nothing for me to do but repeatedly thank him, and promise to always come to him in the future when I needed a ticket. Thereafter I never had to buy a ticket for myself, and during times when tickets were in short supply, I had him get tickets for my relatives and friends as well. That first year  it started with one ticket, now this year it had become close to one hundred tickets.

Now when I go by the ticket window in the station, no matter how desperate the situation looks, I know I won’t go away empty-handed.My friend is a magnificent sight. In his pocket are a number of small bundles of cash, each fastened with a rubber band. In each bundle is a piece of scrap paper with the name of a person, what ticket they want, and how many. Let me state clearly that he is not a higher-up, just an ordinary employee at the station. Therefore, I think it is safe to say he is not the only one operating this way.

Of course, the root cause of ticket scarcity is that demand outpaces supply. But since buying tickets through back door connections can only increase the fundamental inequality of the process, this matter is worth deeper thought. Speaking for myself, I believe that I and people like me only act this way out of absolute necessity. It’s embarrassing. I have done it repeatedly because it is so hard to get tickets otherwise during the spring rush, and because I am not putting my friend at any risk. He himself says it takes only the slightest effort. If he were in any danger of losing his job or something worse, would we do anything like this? Even though it is a violation of the law, the net cost to the system is very low, close to zero. We are just using the loopholes built into the system. What is frightening is that these loopholes are in every area of our society. Implementation of proper procedures simply does not exist. Therefore, when we get to the ticket window only to be informed that the tickets are all sold out, we have no way of knowing where all those tickets disappeared to.

As for the ticket problem during the spring rush, the railways are still all talk and no action. Their empty promises do damage to their reputation. If they can show passengers they are really making an effort, then those passengers will show some understanding, even in the midst of the difficulties that arise. I truly hope that the phrase “going home has become easy” no longer provokes a bitter laugh.

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