Although Beijing is in most respects "a 24-hour city", its public transport remains stuck in the bad old funless Communist era - operating for barely 17 hours a day.
I know it's dangerous to hang around in the Wu having a couple of drinks after work on Thursdays. I know I have to dash to the station by 10.20. The last train - well, the last one that's any good to anyone, anyway - always seems to go through at 10.20 or 10.21. The last eastbound train leaves Xizhimen at about 10.40. It's tight; but I've made it fine most Thursdays for the past month or so.
Tonight, the train didn't show up in Wudaokou until nearly 10.27... got into Xizhimen at 10.36. I RAN the few hundred yards down to the Line 2 platform... getting there just in time to see the last train pulling out. A platform attendant helpfully pointed out the notice advertising "Last train: 10.41" to me and several other disgruntled punters. I pointed out to him the platform clock then displaying 10.39.50.
The bus services are all winding down at this time of night as well. In fact, a good many of them have terminated already. And I'm not too familiar with the buses around the 2nd Ringroad; the only one I've ever used to get home is the 27, but it would have been a bit of a hike to get to the stop for that on the other side of the road. On a day of such appalling weather - 90% humidity, Air Pollution Index nearly off the scale - of course there were going to be NO FREE CABS. Even walking back was going to be a bit of a challenge: the junctions around Xizhimen are a baffling maze, not signposted for pedestrians (and the haze is so thick, visibility is down to a few hundred yards: it really is impossible to read road signs on the other side of the road).
Fortunately, my dead reckoning is pretty good - and, after one brief wrong turn early on, I got myself on to the inside of the 2nd Ringroad, heading back towards Gulou. It's just taken me nearly 70 minutes to walk home, lugging a heavy bag with me. Luckily, I had a 1.5-litre bottle of water with me. I drank all of it.
I f***ing HATE this city's public transport system at times. Especially on nights like tonight.