Archive for the ‘Rules and Regulations’ Category

Guards Everywhere

Thursday, June 12th, 2008

One thing to get used to in China is the number of guards everywhere.  It can sometimes feel like you’re in the type of apocalyptic urban future that’s pictured in movies.

Typically, every housing complex or apartment building has several guards standing around it.  There’s at least one at every entrance and one or more walking around.  Their job seems to be asking every unfamiliar person their business.  The funny part is that you just have to say where you’re going and they let you through.  “I’ve been invited to building 20, apartment 501.”  There’s not even a verification step.

But they really are everywhere.  When I showed up the first day at work, I had to answer to two separate guards in different parts of the building.  Getting into our apartment complex requires talking to at least one guard.

Sometimes, the guards are just posted at traffic intersections.  Not traffic directors — guards.  I was once in the middle of nowhere, way outside the city, literally in the middle of farm fields, when I walked up to a guard that was posted at an intersection between two tiny roads.  Good thing I ran into him, though.  I was completely lost.  He called a cab for me.  But other than me showing up, his job was just to stand there all day monitoring the “traffic.”

It seems that many of the guards aren’t government employees, though I can’t be positive just yet.  For instance, many housing complexes are guarded by folks from Collier International, the commercial real-estate company.  My guess is that most guards are private (rent-a-cop) guards, though the uniforms certainly look official.

The exception is near government buildings, where armed guards in green uniforms abound.  They look pretty official.  Especially with their shotguns.

Most guards don’t appear to be armed except for the green uniformed ones.  I’d take pictures and post them here if I didn’t think that’d land me in a world of trouble.  So for now, you’ll just have to imagine rent-a-cops everywhere.

WWFMD: What Would the Fire Marshall Do?

Sunday, May 18th, 2008

Fire safety standards are quite different from those of the US in several buildings I frequent here in Shanghai.  There don’t seem to be as many accommodations to make sure that people can evacuate quickly and safely in case of fire.

For instance, in my apartment building you need to do two things before you can exit from the main door:

  1. Press a small, recessed green button to the right of the door.  This button, if left un-pressed, keeps the main door locked so that people on the inside can’t exit.  Someone please write in to explain to us the logic of this.  I see this design in most buildings in Shanghai.
  2. Pull the door towards you in order to exit.  Which direction a door operates is something that was resolved decades ago in the US, what with all the tramplings in movie theaters due to fire scares and what not.  Doors in buildings should always open outward.  That way 300 people don’t all get logjammed at the entrance when trying to rush out of a burning building.

The same weirdness happens even at work.  The Microsoft building in Zizhu (a small town in the southern outskirts of Shanghai) not only has these oddities, but has the additional death-blow of requiring a cardkey in order to exit.  To get into the offices, you understandably need a cardkey.  But apparently the building designers thought it’d be Super Extra Double-Secret Secure if you also required a cardkey to get out.

I, and this is no joke, got locked between two sets of doors in this Microsoft office.  It was my first day of work so my cardkey wasn’t yet recognized.  A guard let me into the first set of doors, at which point I realized that I couldn’t get into the second set of doors since they also required a cardkey.  When I tried to go back into the lobby to explain this, I was faced with yet another card reader.  I could neither go into the offices nor go back out into the lobby.

Good thing I didn’t have to use the restroom and that there wasn’t a fire.  I suppose one could argue that if both things happened simultaneously — that is, if I both needed to use the restroom and there happened to be a reasonably small fire that, say, 500 mL of bodily fluid could easily put out, given some patience and steady willpower in the face of adversity — I’d actually be alright locked in the Fire Hole.

As it was, I just waited for another employee to leave for the lobby and tailgated behind him.  He at least had the decency to let me out without demanding to first see my cardkey.  (“I’m sorry, sir, but you’re going to have to wait here.  I can’t let you out if you don’t have a Microsoft cardkey.”)  What exactly makes a building more secure if you need a cardkey to get out?  Someone enlighten me.

Recently Spotted in Shanghai

Friday, May 16th, 2008

Every once in a while, I hope to report on interesting sights spotted in Shanghai.  This edition will be about firearms.

Several days ago, I was in a taxi when a scooter passed by to my right.  On the back of the scooter, strapped casually pointing sideways, was an M-16 assault rifle.  The scooter was being driven by a normally-dressed guy, the same sort of person you see all the time riding scooters in Shanghai.  No military uniform, nothing.  Just a rifle you could film Commando with.  Given that my mental schema when traveling in public doesn’t include looking down the barrels of military weaponry, much less military weaponry riding on the back seat of what essentially was a Roman Holiday Vespa, it took me a while to actually figure out that an assault rifle had just gone by.  My camera made it out moments too late.  Let’s hope that scooter doesn’t get into a traffic accident anywhere.

While we’re on the subject of serious weaponry…  I was just about to step out of a mall today (Metro City Mall at Xujiahui) when I passed a guard standing inside the mall doors holding, I kid you not, a pump-action, short-handle shotgun.  People were walking within less than a foot of the muzzle without even a second thought.  Here’s the thing though:  it seems to me that in order for you to choose a shotgun for this particular mall-door duty, you must either expect never to have to use it or you must not care about civilian casualties.  There were scores of people within 20 feet of this thing.  How could you ever fire it without hurting others?

On a positive note, I suppose the shotgun must really beat the pants off of RFID door alarms when it comes deterring shoplifting.

Once again, I didn’t get a photo of this.  Not because I wasn’t quick enough, but because it seems to me that in general one should probably not photograph prominently-armed guards from close range, with an indoor flash nonetheless.

Sweet Freedom

Monday, May 12th, 2008

World of Su is back in action (at least mostly)!  As you’ll recall, I’ve been unable to get to this site because of the China’s national firewall.  I’m told that the firewall is particularly eager to block blogs because, after all, you could in theory say anything.

Although I have part-time access now, I’m still figuring out a way to get full-time access.  It may end up that we’ll need to pay a third party in order to do that (using a pass-through proxy).

Picture 001 Picture 001 CloseIn the meantime, not to disappoint, I’ve included photos of a sign marking a bathroom stall in Japan’s Narita Airport.  For those of you not familiar with Japan, there’s a national obsession there with bidets and feature-rich toilets (you heard that right).   It’s common to have toilets with fancy electronics on them, controlling everything from the heated seats all the way to ambient background noise (I Am Not Making This Up).  Good times, good times.

Big Brother Is Watching

Sunday, May 11th, 2008

I’ve been offline here for a few days after arriving in Shanghai because, as it turns out, World of Su is actually blocked by China’s national firewall.  So I’m having trouble even accessing this blog, much less publishing to it.

I’m not sure why this is blocked, but as far as I can tell, all WordPress blogs are blocked by default.  Stay tuned…