Zhibo is a weekly column in which Beijing-based American Taylor Hartwell documents his journey down the rabbit hole of Chinese livestreaming app YingKe (Inke). If you know nothing about the livestreaming (直播; “zhibo”) phenomenon in China, start here.
There are plenty of things about daily life in China that serve as constant reminders that one is not in Kansas anymore – the language, the people, the buildings, eating with chopsticks all the time, the occasional airpocalypse, etc.
“Toto, I have a feeling that – Toto? OH GOD WHERE DID TOTO GO?”
Scooters, however, are stealthily one of the biggest differences between life here and back home. If you’re not familiar with the electric scooter situation in China, allow me to enlighten you.
In Beijing, a scooter can be purchased at any one of about a billion stores scattered across the city. I really don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say that you are within reasonable walking distance of a scooter shop basically anywhere within the 3rd ring road. There’s no registration, no licensing, no plates, no tests, nothing. You don’t need an ID, there’s no paperwork, and – if you’re one of the last people in the city without WeChat Wallet or Alipay – you can pay with actual cash if you want.
Scooterist in China Dances in Protest After Getting Pulled Over
As far as I’m aware – and traffic conditions certainly support this theory – electric scooters are legally classified as bicycles. You can drive them wherever you want, park them wherever you want, and interpret lights, lanes, and even the direction of traffic as loose guidelines at best. Now, I’m sure there are rules on the books about what bicycles and scooters can technically do, and of course I personally would NEVER violate traffic regulations, but I can tell you from my experiences… let’s say *watching* Beijing traffic…that the average scooter-rider tends to view red lights as challenges and the bike lane as last resort.
And if you’re picturing a bunch of hoverboards or little battery-powered bicycles, think again – these things are basically slower motorcycles that make up for their limited speed (30-40 mph on the good ones) by being almost completely silent. And yet despite the overwhelming likelihood of getting into at least a few minor accidents, countless people still ride them all over the city and would rather risk death than give ‘em up.
Watch: Texting Scooter Driver Swallowed by Sudden Sinkhole
And to be frank, count me firmly on team Deathwish – zipping around the city may kill me one day, but I’ll have lived an entire extra life with all the time I’ve saved doing so.
Look, I’m all for setting aside racial stereotypes and trying to evaluate stuff on a case-by-case, but there are certain demographic/statistical realities that make these questions a tad unnecessary.
Well, that and the American flag in my Inke username.
I may not get *much* trolling on Inke, but there’s still a bit of schadenfreude to be had when two unpleasant commenters start aiming their ire at each other instead of yours truly. In this case, a question about whether [certain island] is part of [certain country] prompted this little squabble.
I, of course, remain neutral and opinion-less when it comes to such matters.
Ah, the mysteries of the comment section. The only finger-centric activity I do regularly on Inke is playing the piano – but I am neither good at it nor was I playing the day this comment popped up. So either this person is very kind and has a good memory or…
…you know what, that’s as far as I feel like riding that train of thought.
I don’t know if I’m missing some kind of Chinglish here or if this fella is just real weird. This is the same guy who told me he was going to throw me into the Pacific ocean a few weeks back, though, so I’m going to give myself the benefit of the doubt and assume “weird.”
This is one of those Chinese phrases that – ironically enough – I’ve probably learned before but keep forgetting. For you aspiring Chinese scholars who enjoy a libation or six now and then, 喝断片 (he duan pian) means to black out:
喝 hē: to drink
断 duàn: to break or snap
片 piàn: a thin piece or slice OR a movie/dvd/CD/etc.
So essentially, 喝断片 means to slice up the movie of your life by drinking. I of course wouldn’t know anything about blacking out, but a good friend who lives in my mirror informs me that a faulty film reel skipping over critical sections of a movie is actually a pretty damn good description of the phenomena.
I take back everything I’ve ever said about internet commenters. This is a sagacious bunch.
More from our Zhibo livestreaming column:
Zhibo: Cultural Differences and Naughty Humor
Zhibo: The Easy Life of the Laowai
Zhibo: Death Threats and Pornography
We highlight our top stories each week in an email newsletter that goes out every Monday - hot, fresh, and straight to your inbox.
Don't worry, we don't spam