Donut King Redux
Tuesday night, and that means the Donut King. Tonight is extra important, so I leave my apartment at 6:30 to get there early. The meeting starts at 7:30, and is about 5km away from home. Unfortunately, finding a cab at 6:30 in Shanghai is nearly impossible. I walked all the way down past the freeway (the “elevated road” they call it) trying to hail a cab the whole way, with the clock ticking. Before I know it, it’s 7PM, and I’m really starting to worry. My very first day of my very first commitment and I’m going to be late. What will everyone think of me then?!* I’ve got a few AA numbers in my China phone. I think, OK, I could call M, and maybe he could give me R’s number… Ah, finally, a cab! It stops, and I get in.
“Nanjing Lu. Jing’an Temple,”** I say.
“Blah blah blah…” he says, and shakes his head.
I show him my phone. I point to the spot on google maps. “Nanjing Lu. Jing’an!”
“Blah blah! Blah blah blah!” He points to the door, motioning me to get out.
“Nanjing Lu,” I plead, hands raised, palms up, indicating confusion.
“Blah! Blu Blee Blah!!” and he reaches across me and opens the door, pointing towards the street. I get out. What the fuck?
Regardless, now I’m really freaking out. It’s pushing 7:10 at this point. I run back to the other side of the freeway, and start frantically waving my arms at every cab I see, even the ones that don’t have the green “available” light turned on. Finally, I see a green one about two blocks away headed towards me, but in an outside lane. So I’m jumping up and down trying to get his attention. He notices me, and cuts across lanes, but then a guy steps out from the sidewalk about 100 yards upstream from me and steals my cab. I watch the cabbie hesitate, trying to decide whom he should pick up, but the other guy more or less jumps out into traffic, and the cabbie stops and gets him. I wasn’t even mad, just… I dunno, like watching your phone fall into a pool or something.
And then, right behind that cab, there’s another one. I wave it down, and it stops to get me. I get in.
“Shea shea, oh, shea shea.*** Nanjing Road, Jing’an Temple? Please? Shea Shea?”
And she turns out to be the nicest cabbie in Shanghai, and the first woman cab driver I’ve had.
“Jing’an Temple?” she says.
“Yes! Nanjing Rd, Jing’an Temple, Nanjing Lu,” I repeat, frantically typing in the passcode on my phone to show her.
“I know where,” she says, and starts driving. “You American people?” It turns out she’s happy to have me in her cab. She wants to practice her English.
As we drive, she manages to convey to me that the temple is closed, and I manage to convey to her that I’m not actually going to the temple, I’m going to eat cake**** near the temple.
She tells me, “open door, close door?”
I explain, “that’s the window, not the door. Window. Open is fine.”
“Ah,” she says. “Window.”
“Door,” she says, pointing to the door. “Window,” she says, pointing to the window.
“Yep,” I say.
And I get there with almost 10 minutes to spare, time enough to buy the donuts, get myself coffee, get downstairs, and chat for about 2 minutes before the meeting. I even remember to buy my coffee separately from the donuts, so the receipt for donut reimbursement is accurate.
After all’s said and done, I wouldn’t have had the evening play out any other way.
*Shocking to discover that an alcoholic thinks such a thing, right?
**You can’t tell them “Donut King.” They don’t know where that is.
***Thank you in Chinese. It’s not normally spelled that way, but it’s pronounced like Shea Stadium.
****I found the word for “dessert” in my little phrasebook, which I just got today incidentally, and said it. And she responded, “happy birthday?” and made a blowing of candles pantomime. I took this to mean that she understood that I was getting cake (close enough), and nodded vigorously. But she may have thought it was my birthday, I can’t be sure.