Qingdao, China: Adrenaline
By Christine McIntyre
We barely made it to the doors of Qingdao Airport before we were intercepted by an elderly Chinese woman with short black hair wearing a dark purple, thick, winter jacket. Her cheeks were chapped and red from prolonged exposure to the wind; the rest of her face was subtly lined, and cracked, and as vivacious and sturdy as a tree. She spoke to us in Chinese, so my husband and I stared at her fixating on her body language, hoping to overcome the language gap. She was offering us a taxi.
Taxi drivers often lingered at the airports world over trying to offer unsuspecting tourists overly expensive rides into town. We had experienced it before but had since learned our lesson. She made hand signals, putting her first fingers into the shape of an X and then an open hand and the thumb and first and second fingers on the other hand, which indicated the price she wanted, eighty Yuan. Not having any idea of the real price, we decided that was too much, shrugged her off, and headed outside to check for busses.
The men outside were all as short, around five foot six and dressed far too lightly for the weather conditions. Each had on what looked like a dark colored spring jacket, and no one wore a hat or gloves. Most of the men were smoking, and when they saw us, their eyes widened as if they were five year olds and the circus had just come to town. Immediately we were surrounded by ten men speaking to us in a chorus of Chinese. Eventually we were able to discern that the fare to the bus station from the airport would cost fifty Yuan each. The first lady had a better offer, so we headed back inside to seek her out.
As if prescient of our return, she appeared forthwith at the door and conducted us off. We followed her amiably, not saying anything but smiling at each another with raised brows to communicate that neither one of us knew what was going on. I wondered why we were not heading outside if she were driving a taxi?
Such questions persisted in my mind as we headed up an escalator. Again we looked at each other puzzled, and this time I actually snickered. The old lady turned to look at me over her shoulder and said something curt, waving her hand for us to follow her. She was moving quickly so that we had to quicken our gait to keep up. We reached some doors, but neither of us could see a taxi waiting on the other side of the glass. She proceeded to leave the building and began making her way down an exit ramp. We followed as best we could while juggling the weight of our now bouncing packs on our backs.
At the bottom of the exit ramp a lone taxi sat idling. The old woman nearly broke into a sprint towards the passenger side of the taxi and called out to us in Chinese. Her tone conveyed urgency; she wanted us to hurry. I wasn't sure what the excitement was about, but we both did as we were told. The lady bound into the front seat as we reached the back doors. Our adrenaline was pumping; she was in a rush; and the driver seemed to be in one to. Their hands moved quickly in their conversation while we removed our packs, and immediately threw ourselves into the back seat. Just as we were arranging ourselves upright, I caught a glimpse of the old lady’s hand stuffed with red money as she vaulted from the car as directly and expertly as she arrived. Suddenly a white minivan with “Police” written in English on the side appeared out of nowhere. Its sirens were blaring.
The taxi driver, who I never even got a look at, thrust the car in reverse, accelerated, then threw the gears in first, and shot out of the intersection like a horse from the starting gate, lusty and vigorous. The old model, maroon Nissan, revved and bucked its well-worn gears. We were pressed into the backseat like fighter pilots under G-force. Spontaneously, we grabbed each other’s hands, the only action we could control in the sudden chaos. We were in such shock, we couldn’t even speak. As the taxi sped away towards the city, the police continued to give chase. It was like a scene from a movie; the surrealism was so deep, I felt nothing but shock and giddiness. At one point I even started to laugh.
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