In Suzhou, we witnessed a woman on a moped zoom into the side of a jeep at a junction. It looked like the woman had properly duffed her leg up, as she hobbled to pick her fallen ‘chopper’ off the tarmac before wheeling it to the side of the road. Expecting the jeep-driver to check if she was ok and then perhaps swap insurance details, instead we watched the driver re-adjust her dented wing-mirror, assess the scratches on her panels without the hint of distaste and then drive off. The moped woman did the same without even looking back, her leg swelling with impact bruises as she did so. Today, my work-mate watched a similar episode on the junction just outside my apartment. This time it was a motorbike in a head on collision with a taxi. Again, both parties, with one in particular most definitely injured, just drove off. Now I’m not a big fan of bureaucracy, red-tape or health and safety (isn’t it weird that ‘health and safety’ is now a self-contained term) and in the UK either of these incidents would spell reams of paperwork and insurance nonsense. But surely there’s a middle ground? That moped woman is probably lying in a ditch somewhere, while the motorbike driver probably can’t take his helmet off (a genuine miracle he was wearing one) as it is keeping his head attached to his torso. At some point someone has to step in and just say, “Now everyone, this is a bit silly.” Hit and run isn’t an offense here, it’s plain etiquette.
To give a wee insight into the mindset you’re dealing with here, let me tell you about the go-karting I took my brother and Pistach to. To get to the track you had to walk through a bar. There was no health and safety briefing and helmets were optional. We just walked on to the track and hopped in a kart, whereupon a steward (read, bloke smoking in the pit lane) signalled mime-like that we might want to put on the seatbelt. Once we were off, we were basically re-enacting Mario Kart. Shunting each other into tyres, T-boning into walls and swearing wildly at each other, all we needed were some banana skins and a blue shell. At one point, Gregor slammed into a 2 person kart carrying a father and his young son who proceeded to career into a tyre-wall at full throttle, bits of bumper and plastic shattering across half the arena. In the UK, this would be an instant dismissal from the track and possibly a jail sentence. Here, it wasn’t even noticed. I drove behind my brother for the rest of the lap, watching his helmet (crash helmet) bob up and down with laughter. When we got out of the karts at the end he was still giggling. I have to say it was very refreshing being able to have unbridled fun on the go-kart track and long may it continue. But maybe not on the real roads, with people’s lives and heavy metal cars to consider?