Yesterday was the day all the Beijing taxi drivers started wearing uniforms. Yellow, collared shirts, blue cargo pants with silver zippers, yellow and blue-striped ties. My driver, Mr. Gao, was very proud of his new uniform, but confessed he couldn’t keep his tie on the whole day, what with the 90-degree heat. He designated his left-hand pocket for the big bills (100s, 50s), right-hand pocket for the small change.
The Olympics only days away, Mr. Gao seemed especially happy to be chatting up a “foreign friend”–a chance to brush up on some of his English phrases (“Hello ladee, please sit. You want go weir?”) and hone some of the finer points of international diplomacy and cross-cultural understanding. He asked me whether it was better to make the “OK” sign with his left hand or his right hand, and whether there might be some cultures where the “OK” sign might offend. I didn’t have the heart to tell him the OK sign was just a tad retro, but I did advise him it might not be the best idea to call his clients “beautiful ladies” and “handsome men.” (Gallantry doesn’t always translate well.)