Sunday, October 17, 2010

Taxis and Tennis

Last night after I watched Andy Murray win and Federer beat Djokovic at the Shanghai Rolex Masters-beautiful outdoor stadium with lots of other courts, stages, restaurants, bars etc.-we bolted after Fed broke Djok for the 2nd time in what was the final set. We were a good 30 min. away and wanted to get a taxi vs. 1.5 hrs. on 3 subway lines. Anyway, taxis are usually good, but you have to watch out. There were hundreds of “independent” taxis with no ID, lights, uniforms etc. that will look to take you for a ride money wise if you are inexperienced. Well, after walking by 40 and saying “no thanks” we saw a regular cab lined up, with top light on (meaning it’s available). We literally were jogging to get it as several others were right behind us hoping to claim it. It was another 1/4 mi. till I could see other cab lights on top. We grabbed the door handle ahead of a couple of young guys and couldn’t open it; apparently the locks were messed up. The driver came around and reached through the front door, opened the lock, then push and lifted the door open....some colored cabs are sketchier than others...Anne noticed the guy had on civilian clothes. The colored, ligit cabs, always have uniformed drivers. We hop in, tell him where to go, and off we went, at a slow 5 mph. The guy rolls down his window and starts chatting with another legit cab through rolled down windows...very unusual. Anyway, after a half mile or so, we notice the meter hadn’t been started. I leaned forward, knowing how far away from home we were, and told him to flip it down. The guy seemed confused—by this time, we’re on a 6 lane road a mile from the complex, and it’s pretty deserted. He holds up 3 fingers and says 3. We showed we were confused and didn’t know what he meant. We got on our phones and started calling a great Shanghai feature for tourists-especially for EXPO visitors-Taxi Translator—the cabby by this point is also on his phone asking, whoever he was working for, how to say “hundred.” We taxied there for 80 RMB ($11 US). The guy says 3 hundred for the ride. We knew we were getting the business. I know enough Mandarin to tell him, “No, no, it only costs 80.” He repeats 3 hundred. Anne and I knew we could hale a cab sooner or later cause cabs come from all over to get the westerners from the tennis complex, so we started yelling at the guy-now miles away, but on a well lit 6 lane road, “Stop, stop, stop!” Then we went for the doors and the guy automatically locked the doors! We started prying the locks free and yanking on the door handles and roughing up the car doors pretty good. The guy freaked out a bit-he picked the wrong westerners-he starts yelling, “Ok, ok, ok!” He quickly pulls over, got out, opened the locks, and opened the door for Anne, jumped back in his car, and buzzed away, after Anne gave him a few choice words and slammed the door; which on those tin can cars sounded like the thing was going to explode. That all happened in a matter of a minute. We’ve read about that kind of thing and heard many stories, so it wasn’t too disconcerting, although I’m sure it could have been worse. I don’t think that guy owned the car, and didn’t really have much experience negotiating. Anne and I got a cab in 2 minutes and paid 70 to get home. What a great night of tennis!
Today, after delivering Hailey to school for another marching band performance around Shanghai, we power walked to Starbucks and the local western grocery store for some “solid white albacore in water” (regular chunk light is brown and very Chinese tasting...), alfredo sauce, and lox etc., we hopped in a cab and headed home. The cabby was a nice bubbly guy. He stopped at what is a long light and turned back saying, “US? US?” and we confirm, “Yes, US!” He points at my leg, reaches back through the opening and starts stroking the hair on my leg. He points to his arm and strokes it to show that he doesn’t have any. Then, he goes back to my leg, just stroking away, fascinated by the growth and seemingly pleased with how soft that wiry lookin’ mess could be...big smile on his face...then, back to driving. He asked us if he could smoke on the way, right in front of the no smoking sign posted on the door-every door in fact. We let him know that he’d have to wait. He was fine with that. Until the night before, when the driver that took us to the tennis center didn’t ask and just lit up, that possibility hadn’t ever arisen. Hey, if you can touch your passenger’s hair, surely you can have a smoke, right! Anne and I were just glad he didn’t pull over on some lightly traveled street and whip out his junk to relieve himself, like we walked by on the way to Starbucks this a.m. Pretty skillful how they can do it with one hand on the phone! Ahhhhhhh, China. It’s just full of irregularities...
Oh, and by the way, as with most stores and restaurants where workers are waiting for you at every aisle to show you the most expensive item they have, the tennis center was so well blocked off with 4 ushers at every section, I couldn’t even get close to peek into another section, let alone sneak down into the corporate box section. Dang good thing they don’t hold the NCAA’s here. We actually sat in our real, assigned seats! Somehow they were right at mid-court with a fabulous view.
For the last few weeks, save a few drizzly days, it’s typically mid seventies and sunny, or what I more refer to as bright. It’s very flat terrain around here. Many days there’s smog, and others it’s seemingly low clouds, or some combination of that. Anne and I have been doing a lot of sightseeing with backpack in tow. The humidity isn’t bad either, but it’s still far to warm to put on jeans or some kind of long sweats or pants—unless you work at an international school of course. Amazingly, on October 1st, the Chinese fashion gods came out and proclaimed all shorts and/or bright colors outlawed until next May. All dark haired humans have long black pants, sweaters, long sleeved shirts and at times hats on each and every day. The bright blue skies and NW summer temperatures, like the 77 degrees today, do not allow for any wavering. People look at Anne and I like we have got to be unbelievably uninformed about policy. The Chinese for the most part are very fashionable, well dressed, and looking nicely coiffed, but I tell ya, they have got to be a sweaty mess at the end of each day. I don’t see how the women wear those 4-6 inch heels 24/7 come rain, wind, heat, or flooding. Maybe they plan ahead for some of the uprisings in the sewer systems where the man holes have overflowed, bubbling out amazing stench and toilet paper!
he fashion keeps them safely off the sidewalk.
That’s it for now. Tomorrow is another day to look forward to in amazement and interest!