Just the Ticket
Xi'an Travel Blog› entry 100 of 115 › view all entries
I had heard that purchasing tickets at Xi'An train station was a tall order due to the limited English language skills of the vendors. So, perched upon a cold lump of concrete in the car park outside the ticket hall, I get to work using my finest Biro artistry to reproduce the Chinese characters for “hard sleeper”, “Chengdu”, “Monday evening” and “9.30” on a scrap of paper ripped from my notebook. This takes me about half an hour; Chinese writing is not easy.
Proud of my somewhat spidery but nonetheless fairly accurate symbol efforts I queue up inside the station. Upon finally reaching the ticket window I thrust the sheet of paper up to the glass, enthusiastically gesturing at my handiwork and grinning like a loon. Ha! No further need for embarrassing pidgin English conversations; I'm a cross-cultural mastermind!
“You want train to Chengdu day after tomorrow?” Asks the slightly masculine uniformed ticket lady.
My face falls: Noooooooo! Woman Nooooooo! You're not supposed to speak any bloody English. You're certainly not supposed to know phrases like “day after tomorrow.” That's why I've just spent the last 30 minutes freezing my arse cheeks off to craft this beautiful example of Chinese calligraphy. You've spoiled everything...
Despite this setback I cling doggedly to the notion that she should be impressed by my efforts and continue to point at the paper. Dammit - I want some credit for this display of cultural dexterity:
“It's right though - yes? The writing is correct?”
She peers at the paper once more before returning her attention to me. She gives me the look of a nonplussed parent looking down at a nursery child holding up a dead hedgehog found in the back garden for her appreciation.
“Yes sir,” She enunciates slowly, “you want train on Monday, is correct.” I can almost see the thoughts passing through her brain about mentally deficient foreigners.
I concede that I'm not even going to get a smile out of this one so I finally lower the paper, gingerly fold it and place it in a pocket so I can peruse my diligent artwork later.
“Yes please,” I say quietly.
The attendant confirms a few more details then hands over the ticket. I pay and slink off out of the station. Bah - travelling in China is just too easy - it's not even difficult to buy a train ticket these days. Bang goes the blog entry where I gloriously relate how my painstaking penmanship scores me a middle berth sleeper and glowing smile from an oriental beauty of a ticket attendant.
Oh no, in the real world, I get to trudge back to my dorm room in the Bell Tower Hostel. Once there a 60 year old American Woody Allen-a-like named John guesses my age at 40 then talks at me non-stop for an hour about how he's sure a young Chinese police woman was offering herself up to him gratis for his sexual delectation.
Looking on the bright side, at least I'm not the only one with cultural delusions...