Sunday, July 16, 2006

TAXICAB CONFESSIONS

Confession #1 - Door jam

Let me tell you how not to start off your weekend away in the resort city of Hongzhou, China. By the time we got from the train station to the hotel it was a little after 10PM,and our friends Andy and Andie wanted to take us to their favorite teahouse in all of China. We took a walk down to the lake and picked up a taxi. The ride was smooth and as scenic as could be. As the “big guy” of the group (I am a large person in China), I sat in the front of the cab.

The surroundings were much more scenic in Hongzhou then Shanghai and as we stepped out of the cab I was taking it all in. As I gently shut the front door to the taxi and odd sensation came over me, and for some reason I could not get my hand off of the door – it was stuck. As I thought to myself why am I stuck to the taxi, my party began to run ahead of me and as my brain processed the scenario I finally realized that my thumb was trapped inside the rear door. The door fully shut on my thumb so I had to open it up again to get myself free of the taxi. I truly thank God that the taxi did speed off as they are prone to do, and taking my thumb with him.

What do we do all four of us are in a strange town? Is it broken? I can bend it – must not be broken. The ice and the Advil seem sufficient for the evening. In the morning my thumb locked up, and I can still bend it, but with a horrible pain and popping sound the thumb worked. Something is wrong.

I foolishly and macho like, endure the weekend, and returning to Shanghai I find an expat hospital. The good news is that the thumb is fine. I wore a splint for about a week, and the popping went away, though the pain returns from time to time. The hand surgeon believes I tore some cartilage in the joint – nothing to do but eat cartilage.
The good news is that the taxi did not speed off with my thumb, and I can play the guitar again.



Confession #2 - $1.25

We were in Beijing for the weekend. It was a long weekend, and Michelle had to work on Friday and Monday. She also has a lot of contacts in Beijing, and other expats were in town so we had a lot of time with them. It was really nice Rockwell provided a driver to show us around, and take us to the great wall. Needless to say we had little time to ourselves. The only time allotted over the four days were three hours on Sunday afternoon. Wanting a relaxing place we could talk we decide to take a taxicab to the equivalent of Central Park in Beijing.

We hail a taxi from the Hotel. Let me say taxi drivers in Beijing have the worst reputation of all Chinese cities. We explain where we want to go and the driver seems to understand. We pull out and the driver misses the first turn. We point and he says he is in the right place. Where are we? We pulled into the next hotel’s alcove. Then we go next door to that hotel, and sit behind the other taxis in the next alcove. And repeat to the next hotel. 10 minutes later we are about to pass our hotel again because all we have done is circled the block sitting in other hotel alcoves.

“Alright Michelle, get out we are getting a different cab this guy is taking us for a ride.”

So we jump out, we can easily walk back to our hotel. We get down the road about 300 meters, and the driver comes running after us. He gets in my face to pay him the 10 yuan ($1.25) for the ride.

“You did not take me anywhere, my hotel is right there I am not paying you anything.”

I brush pass him and he grabs my arm and starts dragging me toward the cab. He has a tight two handed grab at this point. I continue to protest that I am not paying him. And at this point the crowd at the nearby Starbucks is watching on, and a bilingual man intervenes to help with communication.

Michelle and I begin to walk away again, and this time he grabs me even tighter a pulls even harder. Michelle is ready to pounce on him, my only restraint is the fear of any sort of altercation with the Beijing police, but for the first time in my life I seriously consider hitting a man.

Reason kicks in: A fight is not worth a $1.25. I walk back to the taxi with the man, write down the taxi company name and his taxi license number, and then pay him the $1.25. We went back to the hotel and reported the driver to the hotel, who called his company and the police.

We finally made it to the park, and that evening received a letter of apology from the driver and his company, as well as our $1.25.

3 comments:

Stev said...

Joe...
Beautiful. I'm laughing. Way to take on the taxi cabs!

Loving your insights. Keep them coming.

Have you had any chance to connect with my friend Mike? Email me when you can.

All our love to you and Michelle.

Peace, friend.

mjonthemove said...

du, the contacts, joe, the contacts. did you get my harrassing e-mail?
- m.j.

Brandon said...

I am sorry for your thumb...

I miss my joe time.