Frost forms a dirty pattern of other peoples fingernail tracings, on the widow to the right. The air is thick and nasty. The people are bundled up in thick winter clothing, impossible to make out from one to the other. If it were a Yuan dynasty painting by Zhao Mengfu all this grey might be evocative of something enigmatic and noble. But these aren’t sleepy Daoist mists. There is nothing enigmatic about why the winter looks this way.
I know its bad when I can’t see the towers of Wang Jing off to my right. They ought to be there, right? Just up beyond those trees. There, now, one hundred meters off the towers are taking shape. It isn’t even December yet. The cold of winter is navigable. But this sickly sweet coal saturated winter air is dreadful.
This is the light one must always wait three or four times, before being able to make the left turn. I am in the turning lane. Everyone wants to ride ahead, nearly to the light and then cut over into this lane. Sitting in this lane, everyone who passes to the right is a potential daemon. Everyone keeps the distance between themselves and the next car to a minimum. No one wants to let anyone cut in. But people try, regardless. Up ahead someone in a minivan has tried to cut in. I curse aloud in Chinese. I’m livid and wish I could do this person damage. I imagine exiting and physically standing in front of any car that might try that with us, right here, in our coveted position.
We are two cars away from having made the light. I cheered us on and cheered us on, “let’s go, let’s go, let’s go.” We didn’t make it. Now I will necessarily be ten minutes late for this lunch meeting. We’re pinned here, while all the other directions of traffic are accommodated. Minutes that seem like globe-spins later, the light’s turned. We lurched ahead ten meters to occupy the turning position. Seven other cars have similarly occupied this staging ground, forcing traffic in both directions to slow and swerve. Everyone is used to this. Everyone does what they must, in the absence of enforcement. Everyone is important. If I could have a vanity plate here I’d have “我比你重要.” Everyone in Beijing should be forced to have this vanity plate.