Thursday, October 16, 2008

Beijing Taxis, Chp. 8

Kindness comes in many forms.

This evening I had to take cabs to and from a distant neighborhood that is not well served by public transportation. As usual when I'm taking a cab by myself, I sat in the front passenger seat. My cab driver didn't seem very interested in chatting so I called a friend to clarify when we would see each other next and tell her my frustration du jour, about software compatibility. We laughed through much of the phone call, most of the conversation in English but occasional phrases in Chinese, and my cabdriver was amused by my laughter. When I ended the phone call he asked if I was English, I clarified that I'm an American, a New Yorker, and confirmed with him that he is Beijingren (a person from Beijing).

When my driver dropped me off I asked for a copy of the fa piao (receipt) when I paid him. I use the receipts to help me track my spending. Many other people, especially expats, collect receipts because part of their compensation is reimbursement and they can only receive it if they submit receipts. Some people buy receipts on the black market for a fraction of their face value, to be reimbursed at the full value. People have asked me for my receipts when I've left grocery stores, especially large ones frequented by foreigners on expense accounts. Some people just save receipts they don't need and give them to friends who can use them - I've been at lunch and dinner gatherings where one person pulled out a pocketful of receipts to give to another.

When my driver gave me the receipt it was still attached to several others, from previous passengers. I went to rip them off to give them back, so that I would only have my own. No. The driver insisted that I keep them. It was a form of generosity.

And a form of kindness. One I don't think we would recognize in the U.S.

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