Ticket clerk pulls out all the stops

Updated: 2012-01-09 07:44

By Huang Zhiling (China Daily)

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Ticket clerk pulls out all the stops

Qi Jun writes dwon the ID card number of Yang Shufang, a passenger who needs help with buying a ticket online or through the telephone ticket booking system. Huang Zhiling/China Daily

CHENGDU - Yang Shufang could not help crying when she approached Qi Jun, an employee at the information desk in the ticket office of the Chengdu Railway Station in Southwest China's Sichuan province on Sunday afternoon.

The 64-year-old had been in the station for about eight hours but could not get a ticket for Yanzhou, East China's Shandong province, where her son and daughter work.

"I live alone in Chengdu as my husband has died. I want to be reunited with my children," she said, wiping away tears.

The problem was that Yang, who had only attended primary school, did not know how to use the Internet or a telephone to book a ticket. Through those methods, passengers can buy tickets 12 days before they travel. But in the ticket office of the station, tickets are only available nine days ahead.

"In a word, they could only sell tickets that have not been sold online or by telephone," Qi said.

Qi wrote down Yang's ID card number and cell phone number, promising to book a ticket for her through the telephone booking system.

Qi, 49, has worked with the station's booking office since 2001. He does not know how many passengers he has helped.

Working from 8 am to 5:30 pm, Qi receives between 700 and 800 passengers a day. Occasionally, he can take a rest for one or two minutes before the next traveler approaches.

"But during the Spring Festival travel rush, we can never stop as there is an endless stream," he said.

"Almost all the questions are the same: which window they can visit to get a ticket, how to get a ticket for a specific date, how to use the Internet and the telephone booking system and how to use the ticket-selling machine," he said with a smile.

As a result of constant talking with passengers, Qi and his three colleagues on the counter suffer from throat problems. His wife Chen Qihui, an accountant, often complains that he's a man of few words at home.

But because the hall, which is nearly 2,000 square meters, is always packed with people eager to get a ticket during the travel peak, some passengers can get excited and even enraged if they are the first in a long line but cannot get a ticket.

"They may complain, curse and hit the desk with their fists," Qi said.

Qi who always has a smile, has a trick to calm down angry buyers.

Once when a man more than 60 years old banged on Qi's desk as he could not get a ticket. Qi said: "Pal, we seem to have dined together. Do you remember me?"

Although the man doubted they had met, he kept calm and listened. Qi then related how he could not buy his mother a ticket for neighboring Chongqing, her hometown, because he did not book it in advance. And he mentioned that his friends were angry with him because he could not do them a favor by getting scarce tickets.

"After he understood even people with the ticket office could not get tickets, just like ordinary people, he calmed down and left," Qi said.

Despite his scheduled work hours, Qi and his colleagues can seldom go home on time during the travel rush. Although he likes cooking for his wife, he seldom has time to prepare his favorite double-cooked pork during the holiday period.

His mother, 78, lives alone. During the rush, he never has time to visit her. "I always feel sorry for my family," Qi said.