We were walking the street near Tiananmen Square towards Qianmen, the colloquial name given both to the front gate and the famous pedestrian shopping street that runs behind the Archery Tower. In the midst of our discussion I said “we should go there” and gestured in a large sweeping motion with my arms and hands – a grand flourish of movement that was impossible to miss. At that moment a couple who had been walking towards us split up, parting to walk around us, only to reform once sufficiently beyond our backs.
Coincidence? I think not.
It struck me that my arm motion was like Moses gesturing to part the Red Sea. At the very motion, the pair parted around us.
The incident led to a long, mirth-filled discussion between the two of us after the other couple had passed out of earshot. Was it mere coincidence that the pair parted when they did, or was it some super power of telekinesis that forced them to veer to the either side? Was it a reflection of Chinese society, where the populace is so used to being told what to do they reacted accordingly to my apparent non-verbal edict to divide on cue? This last seemed unlikely, I argued, as my observation of traffic rules suggested that rules for crossing streets in traffic are taken as suggestions, not orders. I had seen this to the extreme in Xi’an where there were hardly any traffic lights even on intersections that virtually screamed for them. Cars would wind their way through a maze of slowly moving masses of steel and humanity.
Our conversation veered off into divergent directions, perhaps itself a form of telekinesis (or is it psychokinesis). After many minutes of merriment we found ourselves almost at our destination. Whether coincidence or super power, the jocularity of the incident distracted us from miles of walking.
And clearly that is a super power.
David J. Kent is a science traveler and the author of Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, in Barnes and Noble stores now. His previous books include Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (2013) and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (2016) and two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate.