Communicating in China

I got on an elevator on the 17th floor of an office building in Shanghai, headed for the lobby. It stopped at the 16th floor, where a conference was apparently just breaking up. Thirteen other people, all Chinese, got in -- as many as the elevator would hold. The door closed, people stood shoulder-to-shoulder-blade -- and ten kept talking on their mobile phones. Floor by floor in the descent, the volume went up, as each person spoke with ever-increasing loudness to compensate for the (ever-increasing) ambient noise.

The good news for China: mobile phones work everywhere --

in elevators, in tunnels, in any room in any building, at every stop on the subway and aboard the MagLev train speeding at 250mph. I can't remember a time, on a trip anywhere around the country, when my phone has been out of range of China Mobile coverage. A recent Amtrak Acela trip from DC to New York, where my phone connections seemed to last a few minutes at best, seems third-world by comparison.

But when I am feeling churlish, that people can use phones everywhere looks like the bad news for China too. I'm in no hurry to bring elevator-borne coverage to the U.S.