Welcome back to Beijing

We got off the plane in Beijing, and it was time to take a Taxi back to our apartment. We were spoiled in Hong Kong because everyone spoke some amount of English. I got my game face back on and rehearsed the name of our Apartment Complex – Yuan Yang Xin Gan Xian in the San Yuan Qiao neighborhood. We got to the taxi stop and noticed hundreds of taxis waiting in line to take passengers. We went up to the taxi that we were directed to. The taxi stand person asked us where we were going, and I told him. The taxi driver saw our bags and started saying something. My guess was that "It was not going to fit!" He opened his trunk, and it was a bit small. He also had some stuff in there already. He put our big bag in the trunk sideways in a way that it would obviously not fit, then started shaking his hand. It was clear that he wasn’t even going to try and make this work. It’s not like there aren’t a hundred other taxis here. I was done with the nonsense, and started walking to another cab. The cab stop person talked to the new cab driver for a bit, and it looked like the cab driver was asking, "Why are you bringing them to me?" He reluctantly opened his trunk and we put our bags in. I told him where we were going, and he repeated it. So, I repeated it. Then he repeated it. Then he started saying a whole bunch of other stuff. I apologized that my Chinese was not so good, then repeated where we needed to go. He was just muttering something under his breath. This was all making me a bit nervous, so I asked him if he knew where San Yuan Qiao was. It was like a bomb went off. it seemed like he was giving me a tongue lashing. Fortunately, I had no idea what he was saying. I sat in my seat quietly waiting to see how this was all going to play out. I could tell Tenille was a bit nervous in the backseat. I wondered if asking if he knew San Yuan Qiao was somehow offensive. Perhaps there was a more polite way to ask. As we got close to our home, I gave him a little help to guide him to our apartment complex, but it seemed like he knew exactly where it was. We thanked him and paid him, and went upstairs to our apartment a bit puzzled. Welcome back to Beijing!

The next day, we described to our Chinese teacher what happened and asked if I stated the question impolitely. He said that it’s exactly how I was supposed to ask. Then, after thinking about it some, he said that he was probably mad because we lived so close to the airport. Taxi drivers have to wait in very long lines and are hoping to make a lot of money by taking passengers that live far away. We paid about 50 Yuan which is about $7.50. That probably makes sense. The line was pretty long.

I was talking to my friend Adam about this who lives in Taiwan. He said that in Taiwan they have a system to address this. If a passenger is only going a short distance, the taxi stop guy will call a cab from the back of the line. This way, the cabs that have waited a long time can all earn a substantial fare. He also said that in England, if you’re back within 15 minutes of picking someone up, the cab can return to the front of the line again. Apparently, taxi drivers started forming teams where 1 cab would pick up a passenger then drop them off a short way away from the airport feigning something wrong with the car where his buddies would pick them up. Then the original cab driver would go back to the airport to get in front of the line and pick up another passenger and repeat the process. These cab drivers are no dummies…

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