Chinese Stories in English
Driving Mr. FFG
I made the mistake of sitting in the front seat of a cab the other day. It was OK – I mean, nothing unusual happened – I just had a somewhat different perspective on things. I haven't slept very well the last couple of nights.
On second thought, one slightly unusual thing did happen during the trip. We came up to a stop light at a "T" intersection where the driver planned on turning right. The seven or eight cars in front of us were all waiting to turn left. (Well, actually, they all had their left turn blinkers on, which in Liuzhou is not necessarily the same thing.) Only three or four of them were fully in the left turn lane, however. The others were straddling the white line and were far enough to the right so that my driver couldn't get by to make his turn.
The cabbie pulled up to the end of the line and sat there muttering. I usually cherish such moments because they give me a chance to learn some Chinese expressions that aren't included in the textbooks. I already knew all the things this guy was saying, though.
After fully four or five seconds, the cabbie ran out of patience. He pulled out into the oncoming traffic lane and floored it. Fortunately there was only one oncoming car and it quickly pulled over enough for us to get by. We whizzed past the waiting left-turners in five minutes flat – well, that's what it seemed like to me, long enough for my entire life to flash before my eyes – but I guess it was really only a couple of seconds.
The driver laid on the horn the whole way. He must have been hoping that if the light turned green, the waiting cars wouldn't start to turn left without looking. I was praying fervently for the same thing. We got to the head of the line eventually and the cabbie made his right turn in front of the waiting cars. As is the custom here, he didn't bother stopping or even looking to his left before he made the turn. I'm pretty sure all four wheels stayed on the pavement.
I mentioned that this was only a slightly unusual ride. The unusual part was that the oncoming vehicle pulled over so quickly to let us get by, without playing chicken. Must have been a novice driver, I guess.
Throughout the incident, the cabbie kept muttering about drivers who don't move over where they belong so that people can get by to turn right. After we were around the corner and I had recovered my voice, I asked him whether the driving schools in China teach people to stay in their own lanes. He said he doesn't know what they teach these days, and he'd learned to drive so long ago that he didn't remember what he'd been taught.
Why wasn't I surprised?
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