August 9, 2008

Out and about

I actually left the MPC yesterday. Saw a little of Beijing from a taxi on the way to an interview with a 58-year-old American sailor at a 5-star hotel. It was kind of nice, sitting in the swanky hotel bar and listening to this guy explain how he got to be here, and how much he was enjoying himself.

The traffic both ways was pretty horrendous, and the drivers are seriously scary. I've driven in Europe, and I've tried to cross the street in New York City; I'm not a stranger to this sort of thing. Beijing puts them all to shame. On the other hand, I don't see any dented or scraped vehicles on the road, so maybe there's something I'm not getting.

It seems to take a long time to get anywhere. From our hotel, it's only about six kilometers to the MPC, but it takes nearly 20 minutes. This is because we are on the wrong side of the ring road, and we must go about a mile-plus in one direction, only to take a looped overpass to go back the other way. Many things are close, as the crow flies.

When we took the taxi, the route seemed quite circuitous, although I'm sure the taxi driver wasn't trying to cheat us. That happens to me in almost every foreign city I visit, so I know it when I see it. On the way back from the hotel to the press center, we had terrible traffic, and there seemed to be an exit that was little-used. I gave the driver my press credential, and he flashed it to the volunteer and we sailed on through. A small perk.

On the other hand, when you take a circuitous route from point A to point B, you get to see more stuff. In my case, I saw the Bird's Nest stadium and the Water Cube swim venue. Both were very cool, and I'm more determined now to see them up close.

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