The development of Wuxi's Metro has simultaneously lessened local traffic and improved the convenience of Jiangsu province city. While residents see the metro as operating between the hours 05:55 and 22:49, metro attendants find working hours far more flexible and remain an underappreciated cog in what has become a vital Wuxi infrastructure.
Who hasn't raced through a Wuxi Metro station and breathlessly asked a station attendant any number of inane questions that could have been answered were we willing to engage the brain? Where do I buy a ticket? Is there a bathroom nearby? Where is the high-speed railway station? How do I transfer to a bus? Station attendants, however, are patient beings, even during the Spring Festival rush when platforms are mobbed they answer in a calm and polite manner.
A metro attendant helps passengers transfer personal baggage using a hand cart. [Photo/wxrb.com]
Yang Changxian, the head officer in charge of the Wuxi Railway Station, can attest to feeling the strain of the taxing job.
"At 8 o'clock in the evening, when most people are relaxing and enjoying some entertainment, we are carrying luggage for passengers."
Yang believes the metro attendant has a range of duties, from prosaic to the bizarre. Attendants are required to guide the passengers, inspect the station for abnormalities, and provide polite service by offering directions. In more extreme circumstances, however, attendants are responsible for putting out fires, helping a heart attack victim, and even catching thieves.
Metro attendants pour coins into a machine to finish off the day's counting. [Photo/wxrb.com]
At 11 in the evening, at a time when most people are asleep, metro attendants are busy finishing off shutting down the elevators and counting coins from the various ticket machines (machines typically yield 30,000 yuan ($4,362) a day, although this can rise to 50,000 yuan at peak times of year). Station workers may not finish until one or two in the morning.