Comment 69569

By Siren Bang (anonymous) | Posted September 13, 2011 at 16:48:20

"There was a sudden cascade of high-pitched warning beeps—90 seconds until takeoff!—and we all scattered down the platform for our respective doorways, like hunted rabbits looking for burrows. Miss Huang grinned broadly as we ran through her doors. “Do not worry!” she breathed as she settled me down gently into a red leather airline seat (“It costs $20,000,” she said reverently. “More than most cars, would you believe?”), handed me an ice-cold towel, and positively exhaled an air of relaxation, like a spa attendant handing out cucumber slices. “Wipe your brow. We go now.”

And so, with that, the station and the waiting crowds seen through the picture windows began to slip, quite silently, away. We swept out, in utter quiet, and with an imperturbable sense of purpose, bound as we were for China’s capital city, 820 miles away. When I first took this train, 20 years ago, the journey took a little more than a day. In May this journey would have taken 10 hours. Today it would take less than five.

Moreover—and as many of this day’s riders would remark—we were farther away from Beijing than New York is from Chicago, and yet while the normal Amtrak run from the Hudson to Lake Michigan takes 19 hours (though once, returning from a Bob Dylan concert, it took me three days, two of them stuck in a snowbank in northern Indiana), here in China this even longer journey could be measured in more appropriate units: it would take just 288 minutes. Four hours and 48 minutes. A quarter of the time it takes today to get to Chicago, and less than half the time that it used to take to get to Beijing."

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