Nothing beats the daily rush-hour commute on the Shanghai metro for getting the real flavour of working life in the metropolis. From the minute you step into the station – by-passing the teams of workers polishing the ground, the railings, the turnstiles – to when you drop your four yuan coins into the ticket machine, click through the ticket barriers and swarm onto the trains along with hundreds of other office workers, the whole experience is efficient, cool, air-conditioned and above all, to a seasoned London commuter, clean.
It’s six stops to Songhong Road, at the western end of Line 2, where our joint venture partner CBI has its offices and where I am working this week, but there is no time to get bored because there are flat screens playing soundless ads, film trailers and pop videos on the platform, in the carriages, in the office lobby, and in the lifts (elevators). You need never look at your fellow travellers’ faces again.
I am captivated by the video loop which is playing today, which has an ad showing a mother teaching her teenage daughter to cook something deep-fried, and then a gripping trailer for a film which is eventually revealed to be called “Don’t Mess with Zohan”. It seems to be about an Israeli commando who is a bit of a waster but ends up as a hairdresser in New York and performs martial arts kicks on sleazy-looking characters on the streets of the city. There’s an element of guesswork here because there’s no sound.
As a plot, it is rather reminiscent of “Crocodile Dundee”, and I can’t imagine it will go on general release in the UK, but with Chinese subtitles and quick-fire editing, it raises the morning commute many leagues above the comparable train journey from Clapham Junction to Sutton, with its carriages strewn with free newspapers and fellow passengers with their feet on the seats.