Ava had another performance this week for school and the boys and I dutifully attended. This event was for Chinese week and it was similar to her violin performance in that we all got a good strong dose of how not to act in a theater from the rest of the audience. The acoustics were bad so it was difficult to hear the kids and the stage was impossible to see. We were near the back and once Ava’s part was over we fled the auditorium. I felt bad leaving while the rest of the performance was going on, but I was pretty sure I was going to end up saying something nasty to another parent if we stayed. There was so much talking and video game playing and general jackassery that I was pretty angry by the time we started looking for a taxi.
The taxi ride to the performance had been eventful only because the driver had difficulty finding the place. It was the other campus of Ava’s school, and I am not familiar enough with the location to help with directions. The driver kept telling me that the address on the tickets and the address on my map were not the same. The kids bounced around in the back of the taxi and I alternated between trying to help the driver and yelling at the kids.
The ride home started out fine. We walked a bit to find an empty taxi, but the driver didn’t complain about the short distance or the small fare we would be paying. I had given him a false impression of competence with my first few initial sentences in Chinese and he tried to talk to me the entire ride. I understood a little of what he was saying so it was a good chance to work on my Mandarin. We hit a snag a few minutes from home. Shanghai traffic is always crazy and there was an accident up ahead. We had to slow down to creep through the intersection.
We have seen a few accidents here since arriving in December. Most of these are minor. They are little dents and scratches. People will be out of their cars, yelling at each other about the damage. Just yesterday I saw a motorcycle and a bike that had collided in an intersection. Both vehicles were on their sides, but the people were standing up, unhurt. They were fighting with each other and examining the bikes as a crowd gathered around them.
But this accident was different. There was a police car with its lights on and several cars at curious angles in the intersection. The cars didn’t look that bad, but it was dark and it was hard to see everything clearly. Once we got closer we saw the man in the street. He had been riding a moped and the car had hit him hard enough to knock his shoes off. He was on his stomach with his arms and legs splayed out but no one was helping him or even looking at him. His bike lay on its side a few feet away. At first I thought that he was just badly injured, but the angles of his arms and legs combined with the lack of attention he was getting made me pretty certain. I think he was dead.
The kids had their faces pressed against the window as we passed the scene. The cab driver and I both let out noises of shock and surprise—me in English and him in Chinese. “Is that guy dead?” Lucas asked. I hesitated. “Maybe,” I told him. The driver let out a nervous giggle and began talking to us in rapid Chinese. Lucas didn’t like the giggling even though he is prone to that reaction himself. “That guy might be dead and he is laughing?! What is he saying?” I had no idea, but I defended the laughing. It wasn’t mean spirited laughter, it was the laughter that comes with a surprise like a dead body in the middle of the street.
We couldn’t see any blood. I knew I was supposed to use this as a moment to reinforce what we had been telling the kids about how dangerous it can be to cross the street. I knew I was supposed to reiterate all the things we had said about bike safety but I couldn’t muster much wisdom up at that moment. I was too busy trying to control my shaking.