Sunday, 26 August 2007

Beijing: About Drivers

Drivers know everything. They know where your new colleague lives. They know who had dinner where and when they went home - after which bar and probably with whom too. They know who is entitled to which company car and who has changed the car too early. Our driver also knows that apple juice is cheaper at Jenny Lou than at Carrefour. He knows which ham my husband likes to eat and which milk my son prefers. He also knew that a police control in Sanlitun’s barstreet was scheduled for the other night.

Drivers hear lots of things and they like to share information. That’s why we know also lots of things about our drivers.

Working as a driver in Beijing is a well respected and well paid job. At least it was for many years. It might change. However, our driver seems to drive for fun. He was waiting to finally drive his dream car, a Mercedes. He is happy with that. He owns a house and his wife does business trips to London. Never had a driver before who was living at that standard. He does not buy his cashmere sweater like I do at the Silk market for 240 RMB. He buys a better quality for 600 RMB at Lido Holiday Inn. Then there was a time he was thinking of buying an apartment, just for an investment. And last week he tells that he made a great deal. He sold an other apartment for 1,5 million RMB that he bought four years ago for 500,000 RMB. 1,000,0000 RMB profit (about 100,000 Euro). Our driver. Unbelievable. Do you still want to work for us?, I asked him. He just laughed and smiled friendly like always. He is one of the best looking Chinese around and he always dresses nicely. He does not spit on the street at a red light like taxi drives do. And you won’t believe, but he is also good in driving. He is the best driver we ever had (5 years in Thailand, no one could drive like that). And in China, someone who really knows to drive is hard to find. His English name is ‘Michael’. He said, his previous boss gave him this name after ‘Michael Schumacher’. He worked for Volvo and Siemens before. But his dream was to drive a Mercedes.

All visiting family members love him. My sister said that a certain distance with a taxi driver takes double of the time than with ‘Michael’. Our driver knows his way. With him there is no traffic jam in Beijing. He just avoids the traffic jam. He goes on the fourth or fifth ring road to avoid the traffic on the third. He burns more gasoline on more kilometres but he is seldom stacked in traffic. He knows that we will arrive in 7 minutes. Not 5 or 10 minutes, no he knows, it will take 7 minutes. He can always at anytime point in my fathers map where we are. When we go back home for summer he buys green tea for my mother and mother-in-law as a gift. He owns two mobile phones, latest models only. We already suspected him to spy on us. Maybe he has another job, maybe not. We don’t mind. We are happy with him.

Yesterday, we had dinner with another couple, friends, which happen to work for the same company. They told us, that their driver saw our car outside and said to them, that we are already in the restaurant. And of course he knows our driver. They probably will go for dinner together. So it happened that we had a small conversation about our drivers. We learned from our friends that their diver is an even bigger businessman than ours. He owns 6 shops in Yashow and Silk market. And he or his wife owns a spacious and apparently recognized Chinese restaurant that can host up to 800 people. One day, our friend told us, the driver asked him if he could stop at the bank. He might need some cash, he thought. Wrong. The driver opened the gloves box and took out an envelop 10cm thick, packed with 100 RMB bills. Money from his restaurant. This one definitely drives just for fun.

Our next dinner date will be at our friend's driver’s restaurant.

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