I’m slowly developing a phobia for mid-afternoon taxi drivers. I’m not sure if they’re all absolute twats, or if its just me.  Can’t possibly be me. I hope not anyhow…

Taking a cab between 3:30 and 4pm is easily the biggest pain in my relocated ass right now. My current schedule requires me to commute at this time of the day, and it very rarely goes smoothly. Taxis usually change from the day driver to the night driver around 4pm.  And to do that they need to go pick up the second driver in a certain part of town. If your destination is not reasonably near that part of town then your shit outta good fortune, as I all too often am.  Typically, the conversation with the driver goes something like this:

Driver: 到那儿?
Where to?

Me: 中山广场。
Zhongshan Square

Driver: 去不了。
I can’t go.

Me: 为什么呢?
Why not?

Driver: 交班。
I’m changing shifts.

Me: 那,你交班的话, 你干吗停车?快去交班吧,别浪费我的时间。
If you’re changing shifts, why stop the car? Go change shifts then, and stop wasting my time.

Usually I would not be so snappy, but recently it’s not unusual for this scenario to happen a few times in a row, leaving me running late as a result.  But my question to all “Old China Veterans” out there is this:

Is it illegal for taxi drivers to refuse to take customers in this way? I was under the impression (from one of my old Chinese text books) that if a taxi driver refuses a customer, you should take down his car number (车号)and report him no matter how many 我们也不容易s he spits out (means “we don’t have it easy either”). I mean, that’s what Mary did in my text book.  But yet when I see Chinese people being refused, they seem to accept it quite easily. So I’m left questioning as to whether or not this law really exists. Or this just another 没办法 situation, and there’s really nothing we can do about it?

I swear ta gawd I just might have to go all Taxi Driver on some of these guys myself if this keeps up…

Disclaimer: I’ve just quit smoking and I hate everyone.


  1. I don’t think reporting the drivers would get you anywhere unless everyone else did it too. There’s a tragedy of the commons effect at work.

  2. Have to agree with Matt. Only time I’ve ever heard that reporting a taxi driver worked was when one refused to take a migrant worker to the hospital after he’d be electrocuted. The reason: he’d bleed all over the backseat. The driver was later fired.

    Congrats on quitting smoking. I know that it’s hard thing to do (I made the move at the start of 2007). Your emotions will recover in a week or so.


  3. Kudos on quitting smoking!! I firmly believe that’s the best thing that you or anyone can ever do for himself. I also quit smoking while in China, while living in Shanghai. The only way I was able to do it was to have the patch sent from the U.S. — I don’t think it’s available here. But, it’s been two years and three months now, so I’m very happy!
    It might help for you to get involved in anti-tobacco activism. That’s one avenue I’ve persued, to tell you the truth, more as a means of reminding myself how bad smoking is, and ensuring that I stay off the death-sticks, than as a way of helping others. I’m in a student group at 厦门大学 called Green Breathing, and we also have a Google Group. Why don’t you join!

  4. I would imagine it probably is illegal, but I would also imagine nobody cares. Smoking in cabs is illegal in most cities as well, and it doesn’t seem to stop most drivers. I doubt you’d get anywhere trying to report it, but I do understand your frustration. I think what is going on though is that the cab driver is thinking “If this guy is on my way to where I have to turn my cab it, I’ll take him, if not I won’t.” 9 times out of 10, you’re not on the way. I definitely follow your thinking though. I’ve always thought if he has his little “available” sign on, then he is taking a calculated risk that where he is going to take the passenger would also be in his route. If not, like you say, he should just go back, and stop wasting potential passenger’s time. The real crux of the matter though is why do cabs always seem to all switch at the same time, making it so that there’s a window where it is basically impossible to get one. Wouldn’t it be just as easy to stagger the cabs, so that this wouldn’t happen, especially considering that if half the cabs were off the road, it would presumably decrease the amount of time a driver spends cabless…in conclusion, I’m totally with ya Ryan, but I think we’re fighting an uphill battle.

  5. I nearly provoked a fist-fight with a taxi driver once before I understood the ‘shift-change’ rule. I had assumed that he wouldn’t pick me up because I was a laowai, and he didn’t take kindly to my gesture of smacking his trunk (bonnet) as he drove away. Oops.

    In Kunming, the shift happens at about 6:30, which is inconvenient if you’re going out to eat. Why not have it at, say, 10? Street traffic seems to be light (at least here) at both 10am and 10pm, and it wouldn’t interefere with people’s eating/working schedules as much.

    And congrats on kicking smoking…maybe this will inspire me to cut out my increasingly alarming consumption.

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