Living abroad has it’s challenges. Living in a country where you don’t (really) speak the language is one of those challenges. Taxis are another.
Tonight, after having a quiet dinner by myself at Pizza Marzano where I was able to indulge in all-you-can-drink sweet tea and a goat cheese salad while getting some much needed work done, I decided to take a taxi home. I could have walked. The mall where I was isn’t not too far from my apartment. It was (finally) a nice night in terms of the weather. But I chose to taxi instead because I needed to get home quickly. I had a slice to write. And more importantly, I had to pee! All-you-can-drink sweet tea can do that to you, you know? I know what you’re thinking. Why didn’t I just use the bathroom at the mall before I left? Have you seen a Chinese bathroom lately? I rest my case.
Anyhow, I make my way to the taxi queue and I’m pleasantly surprised that there is no line and a few green light taxis are eagerly awaiting passengers. I hop into a “dead red” (as my friend Quinne called them) taxi. This should have been a sign that I was in for an interesting night.
“Ni qu nali?” the taxi driver asked. (Where are you going?)
“Ni hao. Wo qu Xinhua Lu, Dingxi Lu,” I reply. (Hello. I’m going to Xinhua Road and Dingxi Road.)
We pull out onto the road and are forced to make a right. The quickest way home is to make a left, but the recently added barricade makes that impossible. Ok, I think. No biggie. He’ll just make a right and go around the block. I know my way home (finally) after living here nearly three years. As we approach the light, I realize we’re in the straight-only lane.
“Uh…shifu…Xinhua Lu?” (Uh…master…(That’s what we call taxi drivers here. I know, it’s strange.) Xinhua Lu?)
“Wo zhi dao. Wo zhi dao.” (I know. I know.)
“Bu yao yi zhi zou. XINHUA LU,” I say in a sure of myself tone of voice. (I don’t want to go straight. XINHUA Road.)
“Wo qu Panyu Lu. Panyu Lu you guai. Xinhua Lu zou guai,” my taxi driver replies. I detect a smugness in his voice. (I’m going to Panyu Road. Turn right on Panyu Road. Turn left on Xinhua Road.)
“Zheli you guai,” I command, knowing that if he turns right on Hong Qiao Lu I can direct him to my house. He isn’t the best listener, so he continues straight ahead. (Turn right here.)
Fine, I think to myself. I know that Panyu Lu crosses Xinhua Lu, so we’ll just go a little out of the way, but I’ll still be home relatively soon.
We keep driving. No sign of Panyu Lu. “You really have no idea where you’re going do you? I told you this was the wrong way. Now I’m going to have to pay a lot more money AND I still have to pee!” I grumble in English. I know he can’t understand me, but he gets my tone of voice. He knows I’m irritated. He grumbles something back in Chinese that I don’t understand.
“Bu hao!” (Bad!) I say to him, which is the only way I know to express my disgust with his lack of direction. We are now at Ikea, which is in the completely opposite direction from my house. Feeling my frustration radiating from the back seat, he turns off the meter. He knows he went the wrong way. Assuming the “I’m lost, so I’m going to put my hands at ten and two and sit up straighter” position, we begin taking the scenic route to my apartment. I got to see parts of Shanghai I haven’t ever seen before. On a normal day, I’d be excited by the spontaneous tour of the city, but my bladder was not a happy camper.
Once he got on the Yan’an Elevated Road, I thought “How far out of the way did he take me?!?” “How much longer? How much longer?” kept replaying in my head. As we approached the exit for Xinhua Lu, I breathed a sigh of relief. Almost home.
As we neared the corner, I said, “Ting zai zheli.” (Stop here.)
After handing over the money for the ride (14 kuai since he stopped the meter), he turns to me and, with a toothless grin, says “Dui bu qi. Solly! Solly!” How could I be mad at that?!? (Sorry in Chinese and then an attempt to say it in English.)
Taking the change, I smile and reply, “Mei guanxi.” (No worries.)