Four Taxi Drivers On My Beijing Trip: #2 – The Man Who Won’t Let Me Off
The line for taxi is short. There is a monitor with a whistle and an orange flag. He pointed to the taxi I should get in.
“This restaurant.” I read the street address to him and three additional landmark: a shopping center, an old-name hotel, and the Workers Stadium that has been there for ages.
He pulled away from the curb.
“Hmm, I know the district. But I don’t know any of the landmarks you mentioned.”
“What?! Do you have a GPS?”
“No, the company won’t buy it for us.”
“Then what are we going to do?”
“We’ll drive around a bit to find it.”
“Oh no, I have a dinner appointment. If you don’t know my destination at all, could you let me off? I’ll pay for the stretch.”
“Where should I let you off then?”
“Somewhere I can catch another taxi.”
“Let me just drive and see. I don’t have anywhere that I can let you off. And I’ve waited in line for 3 hours before I got you. You should have told me where you wanted to go earlier.”
Wasn’t that the first thing I said to him?!
We were on the highway, cars on left and right. Looks like I’m not going to get off. He doesn’t look scary.
“Mr. Driver, can you please close all four windows and turn on a bit air conditioning?”
“Sister, the air conditioner is broken. Because it has cooled off, I haven’t fixed it yet.”
“Plus, what’s bad with open windows? You get fresh air.”
“The noise is so loud and the exhaust so strong! I am coughing. Plus it is hot.”
“Do you smell exhaust?”
(Fuming in silence)
“What would air conditioning do anyway? It won’t help reducing the exhaust. Just makes it cooler.”
“Well, it filters the air.”
He closed the windows in the back row.
“Where did you come from?” Taipei.
“Are you Taiwanese?” No, I’m Chinese.
“Isn’t Taiwanese Chinese, too?”
The traffic was slow at a walking pace. Lexus, Audi, Toyota, many yellow cabs.
“I’m counting the taxis around us. Looks like 90% of them have broken air conditioners.” I said.
“Hehmm.” and chuckle. “Sister, good eyes. Some of us really have broken air conditioner. Others are just saving gas. You know we make so little money, you have to. We hear the company is going to reduce our pay even more. In the future, short ride like yours,” He turned to look at me, “No one would even want to take you.”
“!&#$%^!” (in silence)
I recovered and talked about New York. The cabs there are yellow as well. If you don’t want to drive the cab, someone else will. The streets there were congested, drivers honk as he does.
He is from the suburb and has a baby. He works 24-hour shift. Afterwards he washes the cab, fills it up, and returns it to his company. He takes bus home. It is a long way.
We got there. I felt he knew the way.
I paid him 80 when the fare was lower.
I said 8 is a lucky number, it means “get rich” in Chinese. It’s for him.