Thursday, June 30, 2011

Midnight Cab Capers

Usually, fitting four people in a Beijing taxi is no problem. In fact, that's the maximum number of passengers allowed in a cab, and very few drivers will bend the rules.

But when those four people have four suitcases, four carry-ons, and four personal items (Oh, sorry Steve...Make that five suitcases, three carry-ons, and four personal items!), there's not a taxi in town that will attempt that load.

So there we were at midnight in Terminal 3, with several hundred of our closest airport buddies, when it was time to coordinate two cabs.

Yeah, right.

You see, it was our plan to have two cabs stay together to get us to our new abode. (We had an idea of where it was, but in Beijing addresses are never a sure promise of location.) We had discussed that Julie and I would get in one cab with half the bags, while Steve and Z would take the rest of the bags in the other cab. We would ask Julie and my driver to follow Steve and Z's driver, figuring that at midnight this would be no problem.

Obviously, we forgot what Beijing taxi drivers are like!

As we loaded the bags, Julie put one of the big ones in the back of our cab. The driver said "OK" and began to close the trunk. "No," Julie said, "there are more," and motioned to Steve to bring the 70-pounder over. "No!" said the driver as he waved Steve off. Apparently, he was put off by the size of the suitcase and so we had to adjust and move some of the bags from the other cab instead. (To add insult to injury, Julie and my driver also added a kuai dianr!, which means "Hurry up!") Fortunately, Steve and Z's driver was more amenable to the big suitcase, so we were able to fit everything in.

Then it was time to coordinate.

Apparently, Beijing taxi drivers don't coordinate.

Our driver took off (almost before I had my foot in the door!) and headed out of the airport before I could even get the word "coordinate" out. And so we were off to a part of Beijing that we had been to but did not know very well.

Oh...and did I mention it was midnight!?

Oh...and did I mention that we were not quite sure of our apartment's location!?

Oh...and did I happen to explain that our Chinese-use cell phones were not yet ready to be used? After sitting in the drawer for 10 months, they had lost their charge because the plugs are made for Chinese outlets.

So there was a lot of tension in the back seat. (I put Julie in the front seat since she would speak much better with the driver...Or maybe not, as he spent the entire time on his cellphone, while weaving and horning other drivers.) We had a special meeting place just in case, but even a well-known bridge could be a bit scary during late night hours.

All worry was for naught, as Julie and the driver negotiated the streets of Beijing to Xueyuanpai, Building B. While entry was tricky, since you had to go all around the building to get there, we made it, and the boys joined us two minutes later!

In any case, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride has nothing on this one!



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