Taxi woes

Things have been too quiet around here for too long – life has been rushing by and there has been little time for putting it into words. But, oh faithful followers, after numerous requests as to whether I have given up on you, I will try to be more diligent about updating you with some aspects of our lives here in Shanghai – quirky, frustrating, humorous and all of the above!


Last night we returned to Shanghai from a short business trip to South Africa. Arriving at Pudong International Airport shortly before 11.00 at night, we joined the queue for catching a taxi. Most of the time our Chinese fellow-man does not do queues – it is more of a combination of push and shove and scrum and elbow. So it is often surprising to find fully functional queues, even when they are enforced through means of “cattle” herding devices – a series of alleyways of metal and/or posts joined by lengths of tape, allowing the herd of people to zig-zag up and down to reach the destination in a semi-orderly fashion. At the airport, the taxi queue employs one of these zig-zag devices, as well as a taxi-coordinator who steers the awaiting passengers towards an assigned taxi. A stream of taxis stretches off into the distance, drawing up two or three at a time to allow the taxi-controller to pair the next load of passengers with a willing and able driver.

Over the years we have witnessed a few variations to the straightforward process of catching a taxi: Drivers told to get lost because of bald tyres; passengers trying to cram 5 people and more than 10 items of luggage into a single vehicle, etc.

Last night our travel-weary moods were lightened by witnessing a Chinese gentleman successfully manage to express his contempt for at least 3 taxis and their drivers, pack and unpack his luggage from the afore-mentioned vehicles, cause both taxi-controllers to lose their cool and totally violate the ethos advocated by the displayed sign:

Harmonious and civilised interrelationships are the responsibility of all of us

Single-handedly he managed to disrupt the orderly queue process, leave his luggage in the middle of the road while trying to find a driver that measured up to his high standards. Not sure if he was checking their licenses, their CV’s, their driving records, but whatever it was, he remained dissatisfied and expressed as much to the benefit of the drivers, the controllers, the passengers and anyone who didn’t want to hear about his woes.

Eventually he condescended to get into the 3rd taxi, only to begin a vehement discourse with the poor hitherto unsuspecting taxi-driver – accompanied by many hand-gestures. The window was wound down and the “I’ve had enough of this ….. person” controller was once again subjected to various insults and mouthings and arguments.

A collective sigh of relief rippled up and down the zig-zag as the rest of us were finally allowed to proceed to engage our own taxis and make our weary way home.


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April 2012
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