Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Snowfall in Beijing

An inch or so of snow has fallen in the last 12 hours, and I’m feeling housebound. I drove Aidan to school this morning: he tried to ride his bike to the bus, but the streets were too slippery and he didn’t make it in time. So he rode back home and we all hopped in the car for a quick ride to school.


The roads were covered in ice – the little flashy-warning-light-doohickey kept turning on. I had the car in low gear and took my time: I’m from L.A., after all, so I’m not fond of driving in snow. Beijingers aren’t any more accustomed to driving in snow than I, but that didn’t stop the boneheaded ones from pulling their usual boneheaded moves – starting with the bus that pulled into the intersection in front of me without even looking.

Fortunately, I’ve been driving here long enough that I’ve developed Chinese sixth sense. I knew the bus was going to pull in front of me the moment I caught a glimpse of his bumper behind the trees, so I was already preparing to slide to a stop.

The journey continued on like this all the way to school, with bicyclists on the road, women crossing with strollers, and the like. Most people slowed a bit, but continued to violate every rule of the road as they drove.

After dropping Aidan, I circled around and jumped on the six-lane highway heading for home. Traffic on my side was moving at about 10 miles an hour. On the other side, it moved not at all, as a bus had fishtailed to a halt and rammed into a car, blocking all lanes. Lots of people stood around on the road, inspecting the damage and totally oblivious to the fact that they were now sitting ducks, there in the highway, waiting for oncoming cars to plow into them.

Finally made it home, safe and sound. A light snow continues to fall, one that my in-laws in New York would scarcely notice. But it’s going to be an icy, treacherous day out there on the roads.

When I moved here in ’07, diplomats were not required to take the Chinese driver’s test to get a license. I just had to prove I was licensed in America. But since then, they’ve changed to rules, so incoming diplomats have to take the test. And lots of them are failing.

Good grief. How hard can a driver’s test be, anyway? Why are all of these people failing it? My friend Mary recently took it for the first time, and she almost passed it. She sent me some sample questions from her practice book, just to see if I could pass it or not. Here they are, for you, reprinted verbatim.

Could you pass?

Below is a sample of ACTUAL questions that are on the CDL test. These are legitimate, and not altered in any way. This is China, people.

1. In summer, when a driver drives a vehicle he can ________.
A. wear a pair of slippers
B. not wear slippers because it is unsafe and impolite to wear them
C. wear any shoes, including slippers

2. When a driver is cleaning his vehicle he should:
A. ensure that the vehicle is clean inside and outside
B. be satisfied when the appearance of the vehicle is clean
C. keep the appearance of the vehicle clean and the surrounding environment
tidy as well

3. When a driver finds another driver's driving skill poor or operation incorrect he should:
A. not tell the other driver
B. tell the other driver in a timely manner
C. think this has nothing to do with him

4. For an open abdominal wound, such as protrusion of the small intestine tube, we should:
A. put it back
B. not treat it
C. not put it back, but cover it with a bowl or jar

5. When crossing unfamiliar bridges, how should a driver proceed?
A. He should stop to clarify the situation before crossing
B. He should blow the horn to accelerate and cross
C. He should reduce gear and cross at a lower speed

6. Driving on a road that doesn't allow enough horizontal space, a motor vehicle should:
A. decelerate to pass
B. accelerate to pass
C. keep it's same speed to pass

7. On which condition is a driver not permitted to put his elbow on the window?
A. when the vehicle is running
B. when the vehicle is running at excess speed
C. when the vehicle door is not closed firmly

8. The effect of a road attachment coefficient on the brake performance of a vehicle is:
A. the smaller the road attachment coefficient, the lower the effect
B. the bigger the road attachment coefficient, the lower the effect
C. the smaller the road attachment coefficient, the higher the effect

9. When the vehicle's gas tank is on fire, _______ can be adopted to put out the fire.
A. dousing with water
B. covering the fire with cotton-padded clothing
C. using a carbon-dioxide fire extinguisher

10. When a bicycle rider tries to grasp a moving vehicle the driver should:
A. stop quickly
B. accelerate to get away from him
C. stop smoothly

11. Passing a line of cattle-drawn carts, a driver should observe the width
of ___________the distance of oncoming vehicles. If there is enough space left, he can pass.
A. the cattle carts
B. his own vehicle
C. the road

12. As a cattle-drawn cart is making a turn, the driver should decelerate in advance, and observe and running direction of the cart, no competing for the road ahead is permitted.
A. the speed
B. the road position
C. the moving

13. An applicant who is applying for a driver's license for the first time can apply to drive a large-sized truck.
True False

14. An applicant who is applying for a driver's license for the first time can apply to drive a medium-sized passenger vehicle.
True False

15. On a road without a median (or separating central line) and motor vehicle/non-motor vehicle lane:
A. motor vehicles must keep to the left
B. motor vehicles must keep to the right
C. motor vehicles must run in the middle of the road

16. In order to avoid accidents while driving at night in summer, a driver should beware of ______ on embankments and bridges taking advantage of the cool night air.
A. other vehicles
B. pedestrians
C. various stuff

17. The guiding line for making a left turn means:
A. the boundary between the vehicles turning left and the sidewalk
B. the boundary between the vehicles turning left and the non-motor vehicles
C. the vehicle turning right should run on the route indicated by the marking line

18. The sign of blowing the horn means:
A. no blowing the horn here
B. blowing the horn here is permitted
C. a vehicle must blow horn when passing here

19. The yield sign means:
A. a vehicle must stop before the stop line and observe. When safety is ensured then it may pass
B. a vehicle must stop and give way to other vehicles
C. a vehicle must stop and give way to the oncoming vehicle

20. The essential elements of forming a road traffic marking line are ______.
A. road marking line, arrow, characters, standing signs
B. single solid line, double solid lines, dotted and solid lines
C. crosswalk line, stopping line, guide lines


Jessica said... [Reply]

The answer to number 10 is definitely A. Definitely.

Connie said... [Reply]

Sounds like snowfall in Beijing is similar to snowfall in the Southern US.. absolute chaos. Give me a blizzard in the north over a 'glazing' in the south, any ol' day. Florida has the added fun of banked roads (for drainage) so any ice would slide you right off the road via gravity, no matter how well you think you know what to do. Stay safe over there!

btw - I love #5. I choose: He should blow the horn to accelerate and cross. (I am of the impression that most cars in Cairo are horn-powered, blowing the horn to accelerate actually makes some sense!) too funny!

Simple Answer said... [Reply]

Of course you can wear slippers to drive! You just can't get out of the car and have people see you in your slippers! If you can't wear slippers, how else do kids make it to school on time in the morning?

Erin G said... [Reply]

that test is too funny!! only in china.

the reason your family in NYC would not bat an eye at the few inches of snow is that they have snow plows there. and salt for the streets. and public transportation to fall back on. yankees here in NC like to complain that we southerners can't drive in the snow, but THEY can't either. they don't HAVE to.

also snow is one thing, and ice is another. I don't care how experienced you are in cold-weather driving, controlling a car on ice has a lot more to do with God than a driving test score!

I HATE driving in winter weather, if my kid missed the bus I honestly might have just let him stay home all day. I'm a bad mom like that. Maybe when he's 6 I'll have a different idea. :)

MaryjoO said... [Reply]

catching up here: I laughed so hard tears I was crying -- the Chinese driver's test. OMG. I sent the link to the post to a couple of people who accompanied me for 1.5 years in Astana for PT for my arm -- all we did was talk about the crazy driving there. But the slippers ... that's the best part!!!

Candid Carrie said... [Reply]

Wow, are these the same people that write the fortune cookies?

Please. Write your own stuff.