You can see I'm in no shape for driving/ Anyway I've got no place to go

nablopomo2008color.jpgIt's a good thing I went to China in September, or I would have nothing to blog about in November.

Once upon a time, I came back to Shanghai from the excursion to Nanjing I'd attended with one of the programs I visited. I arrived back in Shanghai around 4pm, then had to catch a taxi to get back to my hotel during rush hour (I probably should have just taken the subway, but - to my great shame - I never learned the subway system in the whole time I was there) . I stood there with my suitcases, waving my hand at the wrist, palm down, which is the typical Shanghainese taxi-waving gesture. After what was probably about 15-20 minutes (but seemed like hours), an empty cab actually came by for once, and actually stopped by me, instead of the fifteen other people standing in the street and waving. I guess looking different from the rest of the population can either work for you or against you, because when you stand out, you're more visible to taxi drivers, but you can also be passed by just because you look different.

The driver stopped and I leaned in and handed him the little hotel card that said, "I AM A STUPID FOREIGNER WHO DOESN'T SPEAK CHINESE, SO PLEASE TAKE ME BACK TO MY HOTEL." He gestured that he could take me, and I got into the front seat, which is something that I'd seen Chinese people do but I had never been quite comfortable with, with my Western taxi-back-seat-riding sensibilities. We drove for a while and got stuck in rush hour traffic, and at some point I happened to look at his dashboard dials and see that his fuel light was on and the needle was dipping dangerously close to E. Every time traffic stopped, I could see the driver getting more agitated, but I couldn't decide if he was really worried, or if I was just projecting. I knew that I would be worried, but maybe he knew his car better than I did, and knew how much further he could go.

I started to imagine what would happen if the car broke down, considering that our only means of communication was my "TAKE ME BACK TO MY HOTEL" card, gesturing and grunting, and my masterful command of counting from 1 to 5. Would he flag down another cab for me? Would he have to call another cab from his taxi company for me? Would he call a tow truck to bring more gas, then continue the drive? How would they get to us, if we we ran out of gas on a huge, wide four-lane road? Would he keep the meter running while we waited for gas? Would he just let me fend for myself? Would one of these other cabs who already had passengers take pity on me and take me along with them? And how would the driver communicate to me what his plans for the continuation of my journey were? Would I get any kind of discount on the cab fare, considering we didn't make it to my final destination? I wished I could communicate to him that it would be okay with me if he stopped for gas, as long as he turned off the meter, but that was way beyond our level of communication.

I then started imagining what was going through his head. What if I run out of gas? How will I communicate with this dumb foreigner who can't even speak Chinese? Does anyone in these other cars speak English? Will they translate for me? Why didn't I get gas? Why is she staying in a hotel out in the boonies of nowhere? She is ruining my life. I wonder if I could go to a gas station with her in the car. I wonder if I could keep the meter running while I did that...

In the end, we made it to the hotel without any trouble, although the tension was building throughout the trip. I just hope that he had enough gas left to get to a station afterwards!

srah - Friday, 14 November 2008 - 6:37 PM
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Comments (3)

gravatar jamelah - November 14, 2008 - 7:03 PM -

I think I just had a 90s flashback. The title comes from the song Hey Jealousy? I think? Gin Blossoms? It's all very vague in my head but I think that might be it.

gravatar srah - November 14, 2008 - 7:06 PM -

Yup!

gravatar Erica M - November 14, 2008 - 10:16 PM -

Yeah, I totally have Hey Jealousy in my head now. Man, that brings high school crashing back.

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