Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Just Deserts (sorry)

In Beautiful Day, Bono evokes a romantic vista overlooking desert oil fields at first light. The uber-eco-friendly version to greet us was the largest wind farm in Asia.


According to the Taxiversity of Life.

Our driver, known to us as Shifu (Master), is brimming over with facts and opinion. Perfect for two days of solid driving with a captive class. Shame I don't understand too much of it, but the rest of the team are having a great time, and his ebullience transcends language. The downside is he is easily distracted from his primary task (what I think it is anyway) and so far he has been pulled over four times for speeding. The first time he gruffly paid the fine and shrugged words to the effect that the police should stop wasting time etc etc... serious crime going on etc etc... what they doin' about it etc etc... This I believe is a universal response to such injustice. The second time the officer responsible for pulling him over was a young lad (they are, like doctors, getting younger [except yours truly - medical doctors only rule]). Shifu sensed something akin to naive uncertainty on the part of the young'un and he jumped from the car to vigorously protest his innocence and demand to know why he is not out catching real criminals etc etc... it's all about getting money and easy target hitting etc etc... To be fair the officer gave as good as he got and things began to escalate. When the young officer's grizzled old chain smoking superior then stepped out of the shadows I began to ask questions of the team, such as "how much does it cost to bail people in China?" and "is it even possible?" and "who else can drive?". Shifu's no fool. The speed of change from outrage to contrition was remarkable.

He paid another fine and, balanced against what we are paying him, went into the red for the day.

The next occasion was apparently paid in cigarettes and jocularity. He got away with it. By now, you'd expect him to be particularly eagle-eyed when it comes to the numerous speed cameras alone these roads. He might need glasses. I'd see these things coming from way in the distance, but he kept constant speed until about 5m from the camera and then throw out the anchor. Baggage everywhere. Repack everything in the back and then wait for the next one. Bang! Weighty sack of camera traps to the back of the head.

The fourth time I thought an arrest was certain. And, from the heavy dragging motion of a dead man walking as he got out of the car, so did he. Whatever the combination of charm, cigarettes and charitable donation, he returned to the car, his wallet relieved of its load. His drivers licence however was freshly decorated with six shiny new points. Four more and he's off the road.

That was day one on the road to Kashgar. Day two saw steady law abiding progression and a grimace on Shifu's face each time he was overtaken by all and sundry. Onegai shimasu.

Belt up.


  1. Ha! That's hilarious. Believe it or not, in my 3 years of living here I've never seen anybody pulled over for speeding, much less 3 or four times in one day.

    Consider yourself lucky to have seen that. Hope that luck follows you to the snow leopards.

  2. I am truly blessed! The roads over here are littered with speed cameras, all heralding a police check point further down the road where business is attended to. According to Shifu, in the build up to and during the Olympics, he would get stopped 20 times between Urumqi and Kashgar. Didn't say it happened to anyone else though...