Often I hop into a Beijing taxi, only to get out again when the driver refuses to take me where I want to go. I thought this was a reaction to my bad Chinese but as I understand more and more, I’m stunned by the reasons the drivers refuse to take me.
When we lived in Fengtai, drivers rarely wanted to go from the center of the city out to the boonies. One pulled out a map to make sure I had the address right because no foreigners live that far away.
In downtown Beijing, drivers don’t like to turn around. They’re usally letting me know it’s cheaper for me to walk down the street and cross the overpass and pick up a taxi going the other way, but sometimes they flat out refuse to turn around for me.
Once or a twice a driver has stopped for me, but when I told him my destination, he told me he was about to go off duty. And some other times I didn’t understand the reasons given.
This was a Beijing culture shock, since Yantai drivers would pull death-defying U-turns and shout hello, in hopes of offering me a ride. But taxi rejection has become a pretty common Beijing phenomenom.
The other day, my friends and I flagged down a cab to make a trip to Coldstone ice cream (yes, there’s a Coldstone in Beijing now!). We got in, but got out a moment later. I explained to Hugo and Diana that the cabbie didn’t want to go to Xidan.
Diana looked at me like I was nuts. “What? Why? Did the taxi driver have someplace to go?”