A few weeks ago a friend of ours, Carol, was visiting from Beijing. We has just eaten a late dinner. It was delicious if I remember right. I don't remember exactly who we ate with other than Carol, but they had gone to the left to go home, and we had gone to the right. The buses stop running here at about 9:00pm, kind of early, so we had to catch a Taxi.

Taxis here are pretty cheap, it's about 2.20 USD to get halfway across town. A bus ride, mind you, is only about 0.20 USD, and the Subway, even though it has only one line is 0.40 USD, or 2 RMB, we usually say "two kuai." even when we're speaking English. Every single taxi I've seen is a Volkswagen Jetta, 90% of them from the late 90's. They are painted yellow and green usually and they have a little red meter usually in an inconvenient location next the driver so you can see how much you owe him. There are also blue taxis, also Jettas, but some people don't like them, they don't trust the meters.

I smile a lot when I get into a Taxi because the meter talks to you when it's started, first it says something quickly in Chinese then it switches to English: "Welcome to take my Taxi" it says with a female voice. Sometimes Becky and I laugh and try to explain to our non-native English speaking friends how that's funny. It's hard to explain why it's funny, and it took me awhile to figure out myself I have to admit. Think about it.

It's not uncommon for Taxi drivers to light-up when you're in their taxi, but don't worry they crack their window so the smoke blows into your face. Actually they are always pretty cool about putting it out, but they appreciate it if you tell them right before they light their cigarette, obviously they don't want to throw it away and waste it. But usually Taxi drivers don't smoke. Usually bus drivers don't smoke either.

Taxi drivers love their smart phones too. I don't think thirty seconds can go by without them recording or listening one of those mini-voicemails on WeChat that they love so much here. Imagine listening to a hundreds of little voicemails a day, like a voice mail conversation, the next level after text messaging. Taxi drivers are huge social-network butterflies, it's like the passengers aren't even there sometimes. They also love talking on their walky-talkies, often switching between WeChat and Walky-Talky.

But a few weeks ago we had a new experience with a Taxi driver. We had a hard time getting a Taxi to begin with, he immediately told us, before we got into his taxi, that where we lived was too inconvenient for him to take us there. Three or four other taxis before him would not let us in because we lived too far. (15 minutes away) But this Taxi driver let us in, even though he complained.

The second thing that happened was he quickly noticed Carol's Beijing accent and told us that he hated people from Beijing! While he was telling us why he hated Beijingers he was driving unusually fast, even for here, weaving around cars like a madman. I kept my mouth shut, I was sitting in the front seat next to him and he hadn't seemed to notice that I was American. You'd be surprised how often people don't look at your face. If he didn't like Beijingers I couldn't imagine that he'd like Americans any better.

The drive back home is only about fifteen minutes, and about halfway into the drive he was still talkative but as happy and as friendly as could be, totally forgetting about how he hated people from Beijing. Becky attributes his gradual attitude change to Carol's charming personality while talking to him. Well done Carol.

Of course my favorite part was when he blew past our street, a major street, and apologized for it. After he made the U-Turn and got back on our street he turned off the meter so we didn't have to pay the extra 0.20 USD for his navigation error. That was nice of him. Perhaps we can thank Carol for that as well. But the funny part is how he apologized for missing our street: He had drank too much. He was drunk. Yes, I guess it explained the extra crazy driving, the mood changes, even the talkativeness, and blowing past our street. Though I'm not sure why he told us he had been drinking, that part mystifies my from childhood D.A.R.E. & M.A.D.D. trained brain.

In spite of this craziness we made it home just fine. And I have to say that Taxi drivers are not usually drunk, just the one so far, they don't usually smoke, but you should stop them before they light up. We do not live each day here in fear of our lives. But we do have a few stories.