Chances are you spend a lot of time waiting for or riding the bus, alongside dozens of strangers in often uncomfortably close quarters. Ever spent that time wondering about the lives of those fellow travelers or even whether you may be compatible with that handsome stranger or pretty passenger?
Now a new service, dating around the Third Ring Road, answers the question of romantic possibilities by offering passengers a friendly atmosphere in which to meet other singles over the course of three-hour journey, starting every Tuesday and Thursday from 6 pm at Gongzhufen.
The trip offers a relaxing space for busy office workers so they can make friends while efficiently using the service to commute home, the organizer Zhangpeng explained, saying they were inspired by seeing hundreds of people waiting to catch buses home in Guomao.
Zhang says that, with just over a month under their belt, they have still had trouble filling seats. the service had seen almost 100 passengers, four fifths of whom were female.
Nevertheless, Zhang says the general response has been skepticism.
Postgraduate student Hou Xiaosu, 24, is one of the doubters. "It's an interesting idea but I doubt if they will make money even after they've been operating for a while."
"We will bear the cost [over 10,000 yuan a month] ourselves and stick to our free promise for at least one year," Zhang assured a magazine.
Zhang recommends making a reservation on their website, which has a timetable of all 39 stops on the route - just pick your stop and an SMS will warn you of the love bus's imminent arrival; while registering, gender should also be marked so the numbers of successfully reserved male and female passengers can be organized.
There are also a few rules: girls are not allowed to sit next to each other. Passengers are issued with a "lollipop" they can use to show their interest or not as a new fellow boards the bus and makes his way down the aisle (a smiley face signals the green light). Declined men will then move on to the next girl, or if he totally fails, sit on his own.
Successful men will have to change seats every seven minutes while, at the instigation of former users, activities such as a winking game have been introduced, with prizes and forfeits. The current top prize is a woman's wedding veil, sponsored by a Suzhou couple who export wedding wear and wish to show support and encourage ladies to be proactive.