In Hefei, seven floors is not enough to dull it. Everyone honks like if they didn't honk, they wouldn't exist. Motorcycles honk in lieu of using their headlamps at night. Buses honk as they turn left against an oncoming flow of traffic, cutting off absolutely everyone with the right of way in the process. Cars honk as they drive through alleys they have no right driving through, alleys that are 1 or 2 centimeters wider than they are, and this honk is meant to tell pedestrians to get out of the way. Well, whither, car? Would you like me to scale the walls of this grocery?
This is a provincial capital, but one without many attractions, and so the residents are constantly surprised by us. It doesn't help that a number if them seem perpetually to be indisposed whenever we enter their domains. At the provincial museum, every exhibit we went into we surprised some attendant eating noodles out of a Tupperware. And at the Botanic Gardens, the woman selling chime-stone smashing mallets was fast asleep until I jangled some kuai down on the counter, and the woman overseeing the park water bottles and ice cream bars was doing her makeup.
Overall, though, the surprise becomes friendly, and almost everyone in Hefei is good natured, even as they scold each other. We had barely stepped off the 7am train when a beggar approached my plastic stool as I ate churro and soy milk breakfast. The woman who had sold it to me turned to him: "They are new friends to China! Why do you want to bother them?" She said it playfully, though, and the beggar wandered off grinning. Just moments later, a group of young policemen came by for what seemed to be the daily ceremonial ritual of telling the vendors their tables and chairs couldn't be in the street. One old lady vendor swatted a cop with her newspaper.