May 17, 2007

Beijing cabbie fight

When you cram a bunch of animals or people into a too small of a space, conflict is bound to ensue. I see some good street quarrels from time to time in Beijing, typically having to do with crowds and traffic, or possibly money. I've seen housewives having cat fights with public bus ticket collectors, and lithe college guys tussling with cab drivers as a fraught girlfriend looks on.

The other day, however, I was witness to what was the best such street quarrel I've encountered so far in Beijing. It went down like this:

I had finished my Japanese ramen soup for lunch, and was taking a meandering walk back to the office. I cut across a small road with a few cars parked along it. Before I got the the sidewalk, I noticed a white Honda with a middle-aged, heavyset man in the driver's seat. He had a wispy pubic-hair goatee on his chin, I observed as I walked by.

After climbing up to the sidewalk, Mr. Goatee starts leaning on his horn, in three-second bursts. In front of his white Honda was a parked Hyundai taxi cab. The cabbie was inside taking a leisurely tea break and reading the newspaper. To get off the road, he had pulled the front end of the taxi into a pedestrian and bicycle lane that was too narrow to accommodate a full-sized car. Mr. Goatee couldn't see the fact that the taxi was not actually pulling into an outlet, so he thought the taxi was there, needlessly idling and blocking his path.

After a couple more horn bursts, the cabbie puts down his newspaper and tea bottle, and climbs out of the car. He stands beside his car and begins shouting something to Mr. Goatee that he can't go anywhere, and he's simply parked taking a rest. At this point, I'm still listening to my MP3 player and only half paying attention. People argue like this all the time in Beijing, so I continue walking away towards the office.

As I walk away from the scene and get about ten more paces away, I notice many pedestrians and onlookers are staring over at the two cars. I swing around to see Mr. Goatee run towards Mr. Cabbie, who is still standing next to the taxi. Mr. Goatee has his hands outstretched in front of him like Superman in flight, and when he gets close enough to the cab driver, he wraps them around his neck and starts strangling him. The whole scene to this point was exaggerated so much that it seemed like the Three Stooges, minus the dialog.

After the attempted strangulation, Cabbie and Goatee start going at it. The two men are both close to six foot tall, and stockily built. They both get in close and take some good swings at each other's faces. I don't think either one landed any good punches, but the attempt was good. After they threw about a dozen punches each, I think they started to come back to reality and they figured out they were in a street fight and could actually end up getting hurt or going to jail. This is where it started to get disappointing. The two guys broke their aggressive fighting stances. They both started leaning back away from the other to avoid the punches, and a couple adolescent security guards assisted in spreading the two apart. At this time, it looked like the show was over. Goatee went back to the Honda, and Cabbie went back to his taxi.

But it wasn't over. Mr. Goatee didn't get back into the driver's seat, but rather walked around to the trunk of his car, and pulled out a tire iron. His passenger, a man of much slighter build, got out of the car and pleaded with him to get in the car and drive away. Cabbie saw Mr. Goatee start to walk over with a tire iron dangling at his side, at which point he sat down in his taxi and rummaged around in the door side pocket. The cabbie then climbs out of his taxi with an eight-inch Phillips screwdriver in one hand. The two guys start walking towards each other again.

This time they didn't get to within ten feet of each other. They just stood apart and shouted some more insults at each other. I think it was more for show and that they wouldn't actually have fought any more with each other.

This was pretty much the end of it. The adolescent security guards helped guide the drivers back to their cars, and the crowd dissipated.

As far as I could gather, not one person thought to call the police.

This type of street quarrel makes one ponder the question, in a real fight, would you rather have the accuracy and penetration of the Phillips screwdriver, or the blunt trauma and extended reach afforded by the tire iron? I suppose it would take a martial arts expert to answer that question.

May 7, 2007

Chicken trainer

I encountered this guy in Kaifeng who was chasing his chicken around an alley using a stick with some strips of cloth attached to the end. It turns out that it's a fighting cock and had won three fights so far. The man is the trainer, and that particular day they were focusing on some cardio work.