Nov 9, 2009

Beijing subway security slackers

Ever since the months before the 2008 Olympics, subway passengers in Beijing are supposed to run their bags through an x-ray machine. You'd think that this hassle would have disappeared after the Olympics. But China is a socialist country where stability and employment are primary objectives, so the new security procedures and the jobs they've added are here to stay.

In each subway station, there are a bunch of new jobs that were created to staff the x-ray machines and search the bags of incoming passengers, more jobs to maintain the x-ray machines, and more jobs to disinfect and clean them. If the subway security policy was changed now, the end result would be higher unemployment and instability.

The security check is annoying, but you get used to it. It's more for appearances than anything. Sometimes to save time I'll chuck my bag at high speed into the x-ray scanner, so it lands about two-thirds of the way inside. Then I grab it at the other end, and it's only taken me about two extra seconds. Never a complaint from the security personnel. As long as my bag has passed through the machine, they're happy. Doesn't matter if they saw what was inside or not, apparently. I'd only recommend the bag-chucking approach when you don't have breakables inside.

Recently, I had to get on the Beijing subway at the Dongzhimen stop. The first thing I noticed when I descended the stairs to the station was that there were around twenty migrant workers with blankets and their loot for sale spread out all around the floor. With all their junk spread around, these people occupied over half the available floor space in station entrance.

As I threw my bag (gently this time) onto the x-ray machine conveyor belt, I saw that there were four security personnel mulling about, looking bored. Only one person was necessary to watch the screen of the baggage scanner. No one was attempting to herd the migrants out to the street, where they belong.

In a booming voice, I said to the group, "Hey, I see there's a lot of security guards here: one security guard, two security guards, three security guards. Wow! Four security guards! Look at all those street peddlers over there, spreading their stuff all over the ground. Are you going to deal with them or what?"

No response, as usual. Complete silence and disinterest.

It goes to show, if you're a socialist employer, you should consider yourself lucky if you have even one employee that thinks outside the box. More than likely, all of them will do nothing more than the bare minimum for him or her to not be fired.


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