Saturday, 27 September 2008

Waiting for Godot

As we were driving to the Binhai Conference Centre, Tianjin, China for Day 2 of the World Econominc Forum conference, I noticed someone standing out in a field. He stood looking quite relaxed, hands behind his back staring casually at the road. Fifty yards along there was another chap. Then another. Then another. They looked like they were waiting for something. Then I realised what they were waiting for. Us lot. Their job was to wait for us to go past. That's it.

China has a lot of people and it seems quite good at puting them to work. Quite a lot seem to be employed to wait. There is the chap who waits by the lift. His job is to press the button as you approach the lift and show you how to step in to a lift. You know he's there because the chap waiting in the lobby points you towards the lift chap. There is the lady who waits in the hallway to the restaurant. She shows you how to continue walking down the hall until you reach the other lady who waits to show you how to turn right in to the restaurant in case you keen walking straight and bump in to a wall or something. While you eat, a chap waits just out of eyeshot behind you. If you stop eating to breath, he sweeps in and whips your plate away.

At the conference centre, there are eight ladies who wait at the entrance. (I would mention that they are all stunningly beautiful ladies but I think my wife reads this blog sometimes so I won't). They wait. When you walk between them they smile. I have tested this. If you turn towards the four on the left, they smile and the others don't. If you turn to the right they smile instead. I thought for a moment that they were smiling specifically at me, handsome fellow that I am, but I now realise that they would smile even if I was a chicken.

There is something about trying too hard, I think. It can feel a bit forced and unnatural. But, I suppose if you have a lot of people then getting them to wait in an orderly fashion is no bad thing. And China certainly has a lot of people. A news item yesterday said that by middle of next year China Mobile is expected to have 500m mobile phone subscribers!

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