Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Last night I picked up Richard, my friend from South Africa at the airport. As we walked outside and headed toward the taxi line, we were accosted by a very aggressive man who tried to urge us in a different direction. I followed the regular line and headed toward a conventional cab. The man grabbed me and said "bigger taxi." I was taken aback by his impudence, and asked him how much he wanted. He quoted me a price six or seven times the standard rate. I told him I wasn't interested. He then quoted a price which was still highly inflated.

These guys really irritate me. Living in China, especially as a foreigner, you have to get used to hustlers. But most of the time, you really do have an option. If you don't want what they are selling, you just say "No." Again, and again, and again. But the black taxis are frustrating, because they pick on unsuspecting people. I think the cops should clean them out. Another reason the black taxis bother me, is because they give taxi drivers a bad name. Most taxi drivers I have met in Beijing are decent men. Last night, after having dinner with Richard, I took a taxi back to the University. The driver missed a turn, and charged me less than the amount on his meter. This morning, I was heading into town to pick up Richard for church, and the taxi got to the front of the Beijing Hotel, but was across the street and unable to turn in. He shut off his meter, then drove ahead to another side street so that he could turn around and face the opposite direction. As I said, most cab drivers in Beijing are just honest men doing a day's work.

Thinking about all this takes me back to my days as a cab driver in Kodiak, Alaska. Driving a cab is interesting. It is not hard work, but the pay is low and the hours are long. Fortunately for the cab drivers in Beijing, there are lots of people who don't have cars, so the cab drivers keep pretty busy. Still, a twelve hour day is not considered long for a cab driver. Dishonest hustlers who give a bad name to honest men are not nice people.

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