Confessions of a Chinese taxi driver

Confessions of a Chinese taxi driver

Eight fearless cabbies share their most memorable experiences behind the wheel

Shanghai taxi drivers belong to a nation of their own: they enjoy noodles, they protect their pinkie nails and they like racing traffic lights.

And they also meet more people in a day than many of us would in a week.

Eight fearless Shanghai taxi drivers, who pilot a variety of conveyances and come from all over China, share their unforgettable moments and countless perils behind the wheel.

All cabbies requested only their family names be used for this story. 

Shanghai taxi -- Shaghai cab drivesMy car can't fly, but I am always ready with kind words.Name: Mr. Zhang
Years driving: Six years
Company: Bashi Taxi
Hometown: Shanghai

Dreads picking up: Drunk people who fall asleep and can’t give proper directions or who throw up all over the cab.

Most memorable experience: “A girl started crying hysterically in the back of my taxi because we were stuck in a jam and she was late for work. I tried my best to console her but what else could I do? It’s not like my taxi can fly.”

Shanghai taxi -- scooterI help those in need, not those who go cheap on me.Name: Mr. Huang 
Years driving: One year
Company: Self-employed
Hometown: Anhui

Dreads picking up: People who haggle over RMB 1 or RMB 2.

Most memorable experience: “Don’t think we only harass people at metro exits all day, motorcycle taxi drivers have a heart too.

"During a thunderstorm a few years ago, the bunch of us chipped in to help a young girl carry her bags in the rain. Another time, I sent a very old lady to the hospital, when we got there she explained her family situation and said she did not have enough money to pay, so I didn’t charge her.”

More on CNNGo: 10 greatest taxis of the world

Shanghai taxi -- lady driverI'm popular with women.Name: Ms. Li 
Years driving: Eight months
Company: Self-employed
Hometown: Anhui

Dreads picking up: People who bargain for a low price by pretending that their destination is near when it's not.

Most memorable experience: “Girls prefer to take my taxi because they feel safer with a woman driver, especially at night. I once picked up a woman who was several months' pregnant. It was my most stressful drive. I had to go really slow because I was afraid the journey might be too bumpy for her.”

Shanghai taxi -- green cabTalk to the hand. Or the taxi company. I don't deal with fussy customers.Name: Mr. Xu 
Years driving: Six years
Company: Bashi Taxi
Hometown: Shanghai

Dreads picking up: Fussy Shanghainese who give complicated directions, or foreigners who are overly suspicious of being scammed.

Most memorable experience: “I once picked up this Shanghainese passenger who became furious because I did not take a shortcut that I was not aware existed.

"The shortcut was not even accessible to cars. Normally I try not to lose my cool. Instead of getting into a fight, I tell them to take the receipt and make an official complaint to the taxi company if they are really displeased.”

More on CNNGo: Bangkok tuk-tuk driver confessions

Shanghai taxi -- old cabbieSpeak Mandarin, please.Name: Mr. Xu
Years driving: Two years
Company: Self-employed
Hometown: Henan

Dreads picking up: Foreigners who don’t speak Chinese.

Most memorable experience: “I once took a foreigner home but after he got off, he tried to pay me only RMB 3, when our starting fare is usually RMB 5.

"He couldn’t understand when I tried to argue in Mandarin and I couldn’t understand his English so I just watched him walk off in the end. It was so frustrating.”

Shanghai taxi -- young cabbieDrunken passengers are not profitable, but late-night rides are.Name: Mr. Wang
Years driving: Two years
Company: Self-employed
Hometown: Henan

Dreads picking up: Drunk people who run off without paying.

Most memorable experience: “I took a customer home late one night after the metro line had shut. He passed me a RMB 10 note but only after I got home I realized he had mistakenly given me RMB 50.”

More on CNNGo: World's 10 best metro systems

Shanghai taxi -- gypsy cabNo philosophical debate when I'm driving.Name: Mr. Liu
Years driving: Two years
Company: Self-employed
Hometown: Jiangxi

Dreads picking up: Passengers who talk too much.

Most memorable experience: “I picked up a plain-clothes policeman once who pretended to be a passenger but charged me for being an illegal taxi driver when we got to the destination.

"I either had to pay a RMB 2,000 fine or have my motorcycle confiscated. I chose the latter since it is cheaper to get another second-hand bike.”

Shanghai taxi -- cabbie 8Laowai passenger? Hmmm ... next.Name: Mr. Zhao
Years driving: Four years
Company: Self-employed
Hometown: Anhui
Dreads picking up: Stingy passengers, especially foreigners.

Most memorable experience: “I once agreed to take a foreigner to the airport for RMB 100 but when we got there, he passed me a RMB 10 note without saying anything.

"He pretended not to understand me at first but eventually paid up after I typed in ‘100’ on my phone and showed it to him.”

Originally published May 2011. Updated May 2012.

Debbie Yong is a former newspaper journalist whose bad case of itchy feet has brought her across continents in search of an education. The native Singaporean was an English Literature undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania, a postgraduate student at the London School of Economics, and is currently completing her Masters at Shanghai’s Fudan University.
Read more about Debbie Yong

Sean Hanratty is a photographer originally from Baltimore, Maryland. When not working he can be found on his bike going all over the place, including an Oreo and PB&J fueled trek to Suzhou.

Read more about Sean Hanratty


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