I will begin with saying that Tiananmen Square was a marvel of architecture and city-planning. It was a pain entering, however, because of the two checkpoints that I had to pass.
Tiananmen Square is surrounded by unused street. Police officers stood at one end of this street as a hundred Chinese were corralled into a five foot opening in the fence by which one could cross this unused stretch of road. Before you could, however, you had to show either your citizen identification card or your passport.
It was a lengthy process.
Once you have crossed the street, you enter another five foot opening in the fence and are met with the second checkpoint. I had waited thirty minutes to cross the street. I waited near an hour to pass the second checkpoint. It was a physical pat-down and examination of bags.
There was no technology. At the second checkpoint, there were only ten officers, four of whom stood and watched, performing these checks on a hundred-long line.
At one point I wanted to turn around and leave, but I was crammed into this line, and the thought of jumping over the fence and returning to the other side of the road did not seem all that advisable.
I was taller than most so I contented to take pictures from the line to ease my boredom. When I finally entered, I went on a spree of photography, one I still anguish over missing.
In the above picture, a group of fifteen uniformed men approach this… obelisk. A moment later, the civilians have scurried out of their way. The uniformed men continue their approach to the center of the obelisk, all in tight formation with dramatic waving of the hands and legs. The perfect photo! Fifteen officers with this obelisk directly behind them! And all of the civilians have disappeared from view!
I fumble for my camera and take a picture, the one found above. I then press something and the camera turns off. I panic, turn it back on, but a moment after the camera blinks into life, and I train it on these men… like an explosion, the fifteen officers abandon formation and begin walking in a dozen different directions. The subsequent photo was awful.
I will never forgive myself, or that damnable camera, for what could have been a most wonderful photo. It was almost as if these Chinese officers had broken formation just to smite the foreigner who had wanted a interesting picture to show family and friends.