Friday, March 23, 2007

"This nice taxi"

Leaving the Summer Palace late in the day, I needed to get a taxi to the subway station so I could go home. Seeing as I am Western (and obviously fabulously did they know?) I got many offers right away. I walked over to the normal Beijing cabbie and asked to get in, but for some reason he refused and pointed me over to the first guy who offered me a ride, a guy with a black, tinted window taxi (not normal). He showed me the meter ("look meter, meter") and I got in the front seat. As we were driving, I quickly noticed that the meter was moving way too fast. Beijing meters start at 10 kuai and you get to go a few kilometers on that money, before the meter starts going up in 1 kuai increments at a pretty slow pace. This meter started going up almost immediately.

Driver: You know how much it cost to Wudaokou (the subway station)?
Me (having taken the ride earlier): Yeah, about 15 kuai, maybe 20.
Driver (shocked): No no no. Traffic now, cost at least 40 kuai. Look at this sheet, this nice taxi, it cost 3 kuai per kilometer (he showed me a sheet putting this in writing, although it said "kilomeper" so I'm not sure that it was binding).
Me: Stop now.
(As we pulled over the meter read 16, then shot up to 18 in the interim. I handed the guy 20 kuai and he gave me 2 back. I said that the last 2 kuai came after I had told him to stop, so I got 1 extra back.)
Driver (as I am about to get out, he switches the 20 I gave him for another in his roll): Wait, mister, you give me fake bill. This not real!
Me: I just saw you switch them, besides they look exactly the same anyway.
Driver (as I step out of the cab): I call police!

I didn't get put in a Chinese prison (yet) and I got a new cab to the station that ended up costing another 17 kuai. Lesson learned, blog material gained.

This is a normal Beijing taxi:

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