After I arrived in Hangzhou and was finally able to flag down a taxi, I was allowed about 2 minutes of feeling relieved and relaxed before I began to take note of the driving I was currently experiencing. It seems traffic laws are mere suggestions in China. Lanes are too. At one point my driver straddled the dividing line and sped down the increasingly narrow gap between the cars until he was forced to either stop or crunch into the cars on either side of us. And forget trying to learn Mandarin. Chinese horn honking is a language in itself. Drivers are constantly laying into their horn implying anything from “Move out of my way!” to “Get out of that crosswalk, pedestrian!” to “I’m bored!”
One day as we were crossing an intersection with one of our new Chinese friends, we saw someone sweeping up a considerable amount of broken glass from the middle of the street. Our friend told us, “An accident just happened here,” and when we all made sounds of sympathy or sadness, he assured us, “Oh it’s OK! There’s no blood on the street, see?” Oh, of course.
Another time, we decided to take a taxi from Taylor and Caleb’s apartment to where Tammy and I live. One of the main streets between ours was under heavy construction and blocked off. But never mind that silly blockade. Apparently you’re supposed to drive around it (why didn’t I ever think of that in the states!) and continue on, dodging steam shovels and giant ditches (Wait, where’s my seatbelt? Why don’t any Chinese cars have seatbelts in the back seat???). It felt like a life-size game of frogger (increased by the fact that most taxis in Hangzhou are green). At one point we almost sandwich some poor worker between our car and the shovel truck, but he managed to evade any fatality. So we’re putting along, minding our own business on this deconstructed road, when a bus decides it wants to come down our road too. In the opposite direction. We’re almost to the end of the construction zone, but instead of waiting for us to emerge so he can enter, the big bully of a bus decides its going to simply suck in its belly and squeeze past us. Just as I’m thinking I could roll down my window and touch that bus with little to no effort, our car feels a mild rumble and we all hear a scraping sound. Our taxi driver immediately throws up the e-brake, jumps from our car, and starts chasing down the bus, slapping the sides of it, until that driver too parks his vehicle in the middle of the road, and exits. They then spend a few minutes negotiating what should be done about the scratch on the taxi, while Taylor, Tammy, and I decide we’re just going to leave our 5 RMB in the car and walk the rest of the way since we’re literally right across the street from our school and our tab is still running. As soon as we start to get out, our driver comes back and motions for us to return to our seats. We don’t want to anger him any further, so we obey and drive the 1/8 mile left to our destination. After paying our flustered driver, we leave behind our banged up taxi and have a hearty laugh over surviving our first Chinese car accident.
(Mom and Dad, if you’ve just read this: Just kidding! Everyone out here is a wonderful driver and I’m never in any danger! 😀 …But Taylor may or may not have recently bought an e-bike… )