Living the Life Kuaidi
Pedal to the metal, the trishaw driver seizes the last possible moment to take advantage of the traffic lights, veering a wide arc leftward in his eagerness to make it to the next stretch of road in time to nick a few seconds off his journey. He doesn’t count on the Honda saloon slamming its accelerator down with the same purpose; and the Honda doesn’t consider the car in front suddenly braking for its own reasons.
In an instant all three collide, and with the screech of brakes and collective sigh of despair comes a brief domino effect of chaos, as every vehicle in the vicinity struggles to avoid the pileup. Scooters, bodies, and produce spread across the street, but fortunately no lasting harm is done, except perhaps to a few faces: The shouting match continues long after everyone else moves on.
Traffic is the heartbeat of the city; it only takes a single clot, a minor aorta to miss its cue, for the whole system to go into meltdown. And at the center of the bloodstream are the masses of motorcycles, scooters, and tricycles that power China’s enormous e-commerce sector. Whirrr! One shortcuts through a side street. Bzzz! Another delivery done. Bang! Down goes the driver.
With their sidewalk-hopping and manic maneuvers to beat the clock, little wonder the uniformed kuaidi drivers are the bane of many motorists’ existence, a modern gadfly on our gridlocked streets. But what about the other point of view? In this issue, TWOC looks behind the smart software to put a human face on the humble deliveryman. We hear tales of business and brotherhood, high risks and low rewards, that will certainly give pause for thought next time you curse your pizza for being five minutes overtime.
Elsewhere, as hipster versions land abroad, we go in search of the authentic jianbing; return to the forgotten roots of overseas Chinese; take an unswerving look at the history of school uniforms; wonder whether knowledge has a price; and try to buy a live chicken. Well, our pizza was late…