It’s 8:30am on a Friday. I’m in Shenzhen, holding on to the door handle of a Volkswagen taxi cab, as my driver practices for his inevitable trip to the Nürburgring.
I was unaware that Chinese taxis could actually go the speed limit, much less exceed it through the curve leading into the toll booth complex. Taking a cab in Shanghai have never been an exercise to demonstrate the speed and agility of the local cab. The world’s most populated city, despite the wonders of central governmental planning, has a bit of a traffic problem. Taking a cab out of Shenzhen’s city center to the airport on a Friday morning provides the perfect opportunity to see how a 20 year old VW sedan with vinyl bench seats performs under Crazy Taxi conditions.
Jason has come along with me from the office in Shanghai. He is in the front seat for two reasons. First, he is the one who speaks Chinese, so it’s easier for him to tell the cab driver where we’re going. Making airplane noises at a cab driver has never successfully navigated me to an airport … plus it’s just plain silly. Second, Jason has selected the only passenger seat with a working seat belt. Jason is smart. The back seat of a well-worn Chinese cab will always have seat belts, but they don’t always have buckles. After a decade or so of use, they retreat into the gap below the seat back, hoping to hide in the trunk and be spared the buttocks of countless travelers. This lack of restraint combines with slick vinyl bench seats and sudden directional shifts to make the back seat of the cab a very interactive experience.
I was thumbing through my e-mail backlog on the phone, so I didn’t notice our speed immediately. However, it became obvious when he the curve into the first tollbooth complex. He never bothered to hit the brakes. Our friend was on the track, heading out of the Hammerhead and driving for the tires in the follow-through.
Some say he uses motor oil to make Kung Pao Chicken … and that Jackie Chan is his stunt double …
… but he’s not your Shenzhen cab driver … he’s the Stig’s Chinese cousin!
Stigzhen’s express service to the Shenzhen airport was simultaneously magnificent and alarming. We made it so quickly I could catch an earlier flight to Shanghai. I was originally going to spend a little time taking photos of this magnificently large airport, but I jumped on the chance to get back to my hotel an hour earlier. After so many days on the road, I was ready to sit in a comfortable chair and focus on work for a few hours. The sooner I got that out of the way, the sooner I could start my weekend and pack for home.
Thank you Stigzhen, wherever you are.