Running the Gauntlet

I recently read a funny posting on Shanghai Craigslist by an American about his daily walk to work. It’s basically a long rant about the types of people he can’t stand on the way to work:

1. Parasol Ladies
2. Loogie Guys
3. Lords of the Crosswalk
4. Guys Who Try to Hand Me Things
5. Sidewalk Scooter Drivers

Yes, it’s more exapt complaining, but it’s pretty funny (and only mildly offensive). I can identify all the groups he mentions, and I feel his pain. I’m pretty sure Craigslist ads are deleted after a certain period of time, so I wanted to preserve it for posterity. (I hope that’s cool with you, D.)

The pointless rantings of an intolerant American on his way to work
By: anon-80012960
Date: 2005-06-21, 3:20PM CT

Dear Shanghai,

Let me first state that I am an American, and as such it is my God given right as well as my patriotic duty to be highly ethnocentric and intolerant of foreign cultures. Bearing this in mind, I would like to get a few things off my chest concerning my daily pilgrimage to work, or what I like to call “Traversing The Gauntlet” Now keep in mind that The Gauntlet is a mere 6 blocks long, though running it can take anywhere from 10 minutes to upwards of half an hour depending on who I meet along the way. If you’ll indulge me for a moment, I’d like to share some information with you about the main characters that reside within The Gauntlet, and why they piss me off.

1, Parasol Ladies

The Parasol Ladies are only a mild inconvenience really when compared to some of the other offenders. The Parasol Ladies have an uncanny ability to home in on my eyeballs with their jagged little umbrella points like some low budget heat seeking amalgam of paperclip-grade metal and McDonald’s uniform-grade fabric. While not out right malicious in their intent, they do seem to take an alarming amount of satisfaction in scoring a direct hit.

2, Loogie Guys

The Loogie Guys are just what they sound like. I have learned to be fleeter of foot than an Olympic caliber hackey-sack master thanks to the Loogie Guys. On the plus side they harbor less of a mean streak than the Parasol Ladies and I would even consider them to be equal opportunity spitters. I’ve even learned to appreciate the subtle arcing beauty of a particularly well jettisoned blob of effluence…But two pairs of shoes was a pretty steep learning curve.

3, Lords of the Crosswalk

These guys have a greater effect on the time that it takes me to get to work than anyone else. I’ll go with the cliché and assume that the chip on the ol’ shoulder can be traced back to the incontrovertible fact that these were once the same kids that got mercilessly taunted in high school for being socially retarded. However, instead of turning into overzealous beat cops and mall security guards like their American counterparts, they became Lords of the Crosswalk. These megalomaniacal bastards are equipped with nothing more than a silly hat and a whistle, yet for some ungodly reason the patrons of the crosswalk have sworn an unspoken oath of fealty to these feudal lords.

Gesticulating wildly, they derive a great deal of pride and satisfaction from blowing their whistles directly into the depths of my ear canal if I so much as step off the sidewalk before they decree it to be acceptable.

Try and cross too early…Fuck you, eat whistle.

Try and cross too late…Fuck you, eat whistle.

Try and cross when there are absolutely no cars around at all…FUCK YOU EAT WHISTLE!

God forbid you show the unmitigated audacity to try and ignore these Power-mongering douchewads by crossing without permission. This very morning I saw a guy on a bicycle packed to the hilt with groceries try and run the blockade like a Civil War era Ironclad laden with Confederate supplies. I could see the veins begin to bulge on the crosswalk Nazi’s neck a split second before he latched onto the back of the bicycle and sprayed the poor guy and his groceries all over the sidewalk. If that weren’t enough, he then proceeded to simultaneously kick the man’s bike and browbeat him into submission. Try that shit on me just once, I dare you. I’ve watched enough UFC to know how to arm-bar YOUR ass into submission.

Keep in mind that these idiots aren’t even cops! They have no actual authority! Jesus Christ Shanghai, rise up! Don’t stand for this crap any longer!

(Note: To the most venerable Communist Party of China– I’m only kidding, please don’t send me off to pick beans in Mongolia)

4, Guys Who Try to Hand Me Things

I admire your diligence as you feverishly try to put all manner of cards squarely into my passing hand day after day, but please watch the paper cuts. I pity the poor schmucks that actually accept them, as this immediately whips all the other card jockeys within a two block radius into a bonafide feeding frenzy. Even so, bonus points must awarded to those of you who are quick enough to slip one into my breast pocket as I hustle by deflecting your hands.

To the asscracks that pepper me with fake watches: Clawing at my arm and shouting “Herro Flend!” at the top of your lungs doesn’t make me like you anymore than I would otherwise, (which ain’t a hell of a lot anyway). The next time you put one of the crappy “Fauxlexes” in my hand I’m just going to walk away with it and add it to my burgeoning paperweight collection.

5, Sidewalk Scooter Drivers

I’ve saved the best for last. These mindless cretins are the bane of my existence in Shanghai. I hate them more than I hate televangelists, real estate agents, Anne Coulter and Dr. Phil all rolled into one quivering smarmy ball of self-righteous putrescence. These lobotomized botched abortions are the most inconsiderate “people” I have encountered in my entire tenure on this planet.

What I’m talking about are the buffoons on wheels who for some odd reason consider driving on the streets like all the other motorized vehicles in this city to be beneath them. Someone has to do something about these guys quickly because they’re multiplying like spanishfly soaked rabbits on prom night. I don’t speak a lick of Chinese and I don’t want to take the time to learn, (ethnocentric American, remember?) so for the sake of ease and becasuse it amuses me, I envision that the internal monologue of these shit brains is strikingly similar to that of the average Nascar fan and goes something like this.

“Here’s what I’m gonna do, I’m gonna rip down this here narrow-ass sidewalk at 40 kilometers an hour, (because they don’t use miles in this jerk-water berg) scare the shit out of that old lady over there and then make those fat tourists protect their purses as they flee for cover. Then, I’m gonna tear ass after those two people talking to each other up ahead. Hell yeah! They’re holding hands! I could just go around them, but I think I’m gonna try and shoot the gap and get me some of that there arm meat as a trophy. Consarnit! The next guy won’t move. I better lay on my horn so that he knows who the boss of this here sidewalk is!”

And that’s when I loose it. When one of these glorified pizza delivery boys comes to a screeching halt behind me and then has the gall to blast his pussy sounding air horn at me from inches away because I won’t jump at his beck and call so that his faggy little scooter can zip on by, oh man that’s when I fucking loose it.

The trouble is, when I whirl around and begin hurling epithets at him – the likes of which would make even the most grizzled syphilis-ridden longshoreman blush, he has no fucking clue what I’m saying. Sure the sentiment gets through, but that’s not good enough. I’ve tried playing it passive aggressive by pretending he’s not there as I do my best to shadow his movements so that he can’t get by. This just leads to more blasts from that stupid air horn, and it really isn’t all that cathartic when I prevent myself from turning him inside out like I want to.

I’ve asked my coworkers to teach me how to insult people in Chinese but so far they’ve had the commonsense not to. (Yeah, I contradicted myself about not wanting to learn any Chinese; wanna fight about it? – I’d especially like to fight about it if you own a scooter or are currently riding on one). Anyway, nothing seems to work. And FYI tough guy, when I give you the one finger solute it doesn’t mean that I’m saying “hi” and that you should wave back. To the people that actually walk their moped/scooter/two-wheeled hoopty on the sidewalk, (or better yet, keep it on the freaking road where it belongs) bless you.

I’ll give it one more shot anyway. Listen good Shanghai because I’m only going to say this once.

“Wherever there is a sidewalk, a street can’t possibly be more than a few feet away.”

Take a moment. Let it sink in. It’s an axiom of modern society. Accept it. Learn to love it.

In closing, yes, I realize that I am preaching to the choir. Anyone reading Shanghai craigslist (yeah I’m talking to all three of you) most likely sympathizes with my frustration and is as powerless to do anything about it as I am. But take heed my Yankee compatriots! Do not let your ethnocentricity waver in the face of these overwhelming odds! We have ruled the world for the last 2 centuries, and I figure we have at least another 20 or so good years on top of the mountain, give or take.



John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. Very funny.

    20 Years? That’s optimistic.

  2. ha. the ‘argument’ that ensues is even better though.

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