Weird Shanghai: Lumbering Styrofoam Fortresses

Monday, June 22nd, 2009

Note: This post is part of an on-going series of posts on weird things in Shanghai. Find the others right here.

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Too many polystyrenes, not enough bikes.**

Shanghai has all manner of overloaded vehicles clogging its streets. But nothing tops the bicycle rickshaw overloaded with empty styrofoam boxes. These massive and gust-fearing carts lumber down the street like steady snails. The driver is literally boxed inside the contraption, unable to see out the sides. The cart is a patient anomaly amongst the dodging and weaving Shanghai traffic.

Unlike the other carts of junk getting hauled around, these containers aren’t going to a scrap yard. Every morning, seafood and produce are delivered to local vendors. When the boxes are emptied, they need to get back to the warehouses. Since styrofoam is light and takes up a lot of space, it doesn’t make economical sense to deliver them by truck. It’s much easier to rely a subculture of poor stackers to load an unreasonable tower of the boxes onto their bikes. The boxes are held together with nylon string and pure hope.

I’ve seen a handful of different styrofoam carts. Most were reasonably loaded, two were not. The French Concession seems to have either dueling collectors or a husband and wife team that share a single bike. While the locals don’t even seem to notice them, I stare and giggle like a school girl who just saw Joey Lawrence walk by with his sandy blond curly mullet that even I must admit looks a little ridiculous but is still okay because I’ve been disarmed by the repeated catchphrase “Whoa!” and snug fitting ripped jeans and white t-shirt tucked into the ripped jeans.*
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Parting shot.**

*Note: If this simile doesn’t seem relevant to you, imagine that it does.
**Photos courtesy of D.T. You rock!
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