The Taxi Driver

One of the Great­est Driv­ers Ever

That's China - - Contents - Text by / Chuck Wheeler

出租车司机

Get­ting around by taxi in other coun­tries can bleed your pock­ets dry, but in China it is a rel­a­tively af­ford­able op­tion, so if you are in a rush to get to your des­ti­na­tion why not hop in for con­ve­nience’s sake? Be­fore the dom­i­nance of ap­pli­ca­tions like Didi, one would have to stand by the side of a road scan­ning for that sig­nal of hope…a bright green va­cancy light.

Get­ting around by taxi in other coun­tries can bleed your pock­ets dry, but in China it is a rel­a­tively af­ford­able op­tion. Be­fore the dom­i­nance of ap­pli­ca­tions like Didi, one would have to stand by the side of a road scan­ning for that sig­nal of hope… a bright green va­cancy light. Nowa­days if luck isn’t driv­ing over to you in the form of a va­cant and will­ing taxi driver, then you can al­ways or­der one on your phone. While there may be the con­cern of be­ing scammed when you don’t know the ex­act route to your des­ti­na­tion, these days the rules and reg­u­la­tions have been tight­ened and it's be­com­ing rarer for one to en­counter scam­mers. Chuck Wheeler hu­mor­ously looks back at how ev­ery taxi ride can be a unique ex­pe­ri­ence in it­self.

Pre­par­ing for the ride

I have had to take a lot of taxis and the tal­ents of ev­ery taxi driver have im­pressed me. Some driv­ers are new to the city and they take you on a

nd bit of a sleigh ride; but other driv­ers seem to have an in­nate, meta­phys­i­cal un­der­stand­ing of the traf­fic pat­terns of the city. Good driv­ers know the best routes to take de­pend­ing on the time of the day. Of­ten dur­ing the morn­ing and evening rush hour, a driver may have to take a few more risks and duck down some side-roads, sec­ondary streets and com­man­deer the bike lane for a few blocks to make any progress at all. Here are just a few ar­che­typ­i­cal taxi driv­ers I have found in­clud­ing one of the great­est driv­ers of all.

Pin­ball Wiz­ard

Oh these guys make me feel a lit­tle nau­seous. They bounce back and forth in traf­fic like a pin­ball ca­reen­ing around the ta­ble. Each time there is a small open­ing, even if it is be­tween two buses, the wiz­ard will bounce in there and pop out the other side as he cleaves two lanes into three. The pin­ball wiz­ard driver uses near misses with other cars like flip­pers to launch the taxi at acute an­gles to traf­fic in or­der to gain the ad­van­tage. By the time you ar­rive, you feel grate­ful to stand still for a few mo­ments.

The Full­back

These taxi driv­ers like to rush and roar through traf­fic like pow­er­ful full­backs. Once they see an open­ing they jam their cars through there and break into the clear. While the full­back taxi driver waits at red lights, he plots his next move. The driver sizes up the com­pe­ti­tion, takes note of pedes­tri­ans and to wheeled traf­fic and finds the next open­ing. When the light changes the full back shoots through the gap and is once again in the clear and run­ning for day­light.

The Rock­e­teer

At ev­ery op­por­tu­nity, the rock­e­teer will gun the en­gine and hit top speed within five sec­onds. The taxi driver will push the pedal to the floor and lit­er­ally fly through the cen­ter lane or open lanes of op­pos­ing traf­fic when­ever pos­si­ble. The Rock­e­teer races down the open road as if his life de­pended upon shav­ing ten sec­onds off his pre­vi­ous time for the same stretch.

One of the Great­est Driv­ers Ever

This mas­ter driver moved through traf­fic like a Grand Prix class driver in a pack of am­a­teurs. I was on my way home from the of­fice when I flagged down the taxi. Af­ter only a cou­ple min­utes it be­came ob­vi­ous that this fe­male driver was no or­di­nary taxi driver. Even though it was the evening rush hour, the driver had fan­tas­tic re­ac­tion time and drove as smoothly as a dol­phin slip­ping through the ocean as she looked ahead and re­acted to ev­ery traf­fic con­di­tion. I was not jos­tled one time as we glided down the road. Even with all the con­vo­luted traf­fic pat­terns of rush hour, she nav­i­gated each one with im­pec­ca­ble skill. As I stood on the side­walk out­side my apart­ment, I felt as if I had been chauf­feured rather than sim­ply driven. I knew I had been in the pres­ence of great­ness. Thank you ma'am; you are a credit to taxi driv­ers ev­ery­where.

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