Wednesday, December 14, 2011

It’s the Principle of the Thing

At 3:00 a.m. on what was meant to be an all night sleeper bus, pulled into the station. The driver obnoxiously flicked on the light and yelled for everyone to disembark. My fellow travel companions and I stumbled off the bus in a bit of a daze. The cold air of a December morning did a lot to bring us out of our slumber. Parked all around the gate of the bus station were waiting taxi cabs. As the group counted to make sure we had all our bags and belongings, I went over to one of the drivers and told him where we were headed. We couldn't all fit in one so I suggested my roommate take the first car and head out with some of the girls.

As soon as I saw their cab start to drive down the road in the right direction I began to find a second car that could take us. The driver knew the location, but insisted that I pay him 10 kuai. Now granted 10 kuai is really only equal to less than a $1.50, but I have been to this city many times, and I know for a fact that you can drive anywhere in town for under 5 kuai. It was outrageous… the whole lot of drivers were ganging up of the weary travelers and over charging them. Well not me I wouldn’t put up with it.

I grabbed my bags, yelled over my shoulder for the others to follow and we started walking down the street. Sure it was 3 a.m., sure it was pitch black out, sure the temperature was below freezing, and sure I had no idea how long we would have to walk before another taxi would come along, but there was no way I was letting a gaggle of taxi drivers take advantage of me and steal 75 cents. It is the principle of the thing. I know the right price, he knows the right price, I know he knows the right price and he knows I know, and yet we still ended up walking in the cold.

We got to the corner and looked across the street, there standing at the side of the road was my roommate and those who had driven off in the first car with her. After going less than a block, her driver had also refused to use the meter. He too demanded the same rip off price of double what it should be. And so she had boldly opened her door and declared they were done. We saw them and waved. I knew she was just as upset about the lack of justice as I was. 50 cents is not a lot of money, but it was the fact they weren’t playing by the rules.

We only had to wait about a minute before a couple of empty taxis drove by, with drivers that were so desperate for any fare in the middle of the night that they were more than willing to use the meter .

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