this is a screen shot from my OPPO phone. The numbers are the phone number and numberplate of the taxi(s) I have just booked.
Conversations with Taxi Driver 1.
“Where are you from?”
“Oh, the country of the 袋鼠 daishu, Kangaroo.”
“yes, the country of the daishu.”
The docket from the taxi driver. This trip cost 16 RMB.
Conversations with Taxi Drivers, 2.
“Where are you from? Are you American?”
“No, I’m from Australia.”
“Oh, where the kangaroos are!”
“Yes, the daishu.”
You get the drift. Countless conversations with taxi drivers, all identifying kangaroos as coming from Australia. Sometimes the convo gets expanded a bit to include “your cities are all along the coast line, right? to which I reply “yes, the cities are along the coast line where the land is fertile, the middle of Australia is all desert.”
Or “The air quality must be great in Australia”, followed by “Yes, we dont have any pollution there. The skies are always blue.”
Numbers identifying the fast speed train from Shanghai to Suzhou, the date, time, and seat number.
Imagine my surprise, then, when Conversations with Taxi Driver 3 ( really probably 300, at least) arose.
Taxi Driver: Where are you from?
Taxi Driver ( a forty something, maybe 50 something, short-back-and-sides, serious man): Ahh… ACDC!
Me: ( an expression of great shock) ACDC!!!!!
Taxi Driver ( mimicking a guitar solo) ACDC – Australia! Australian! hard rock.
Me: ( still in a state of shock) Yes, ACDC is an Australian band. You know them?
TD: ACDC! ( more air guitaring) metal- metal – metalli.. metalli… c… c
TD: Metallica. Iron Maiden.
Me: Yes, metallica.
TD: ACDC – Australian. rock. IN… In X…. In X..
TD ( excitedly) YES! INX. Michael.. Michael.. what’s his name? the lead singer.
Me: Micheal Hutchinson. He’s dead now.
TD: ( mimics a rope around the neck) ‘choking sounds’.
Me: Yes, it was very sad.. All Australians were very upset when he died.
TD: INX, ACDC, Kale… Kale Minogue..
ME: Oh! Kylie! Kylie Minogue
TD:Yes! Metallica. Hard rock. ACDC. You like?
ME: I dont really like ACDC. But I know of them, of course, they are Australian.
TD: the lead singer died. the one who always dressed up in schoolboys clothes .Then they got a new singer. An Englishman. I think he’s better than the first singer, the one who liked to dress up.
Me: Oh, I didnt know that. You know more than me!
TD: He’ is a great singer. Michael — Michael – INX – a great singer. Queen.
ME: Queen? Yeah, Freddie Mercury. Another one gone. Do you know Prince? He died this year.
TD: pri – pri –
ME: yeah, 王子，wangzi, his name meant wangzi ( ‘prince’).
TD: oh yes, 王子, Prince…. his face.. not white. ( Mimics afro hair style.
Me: That’s right, he was African American. Bowie died this year too. An English man. do you know him?
TD: Bo .. Bo..
Me: Bowie, David Bowie.
TD: Yes.. David Bowie. Not metallica. Iron Maiden. Rolling Stones.
I laugh and repeat his list.
TD: Rolling Stones – the lead singer is amazing.
Me: Mick Jagger – yeah, he’s one of a kind.
TD: ACDC – Australia!
We’re at my destination. I pay the fare, and say goodbye to the most musically erudite taxi driver I’ve ever met in China. ACDC. Their number one fan must surely be this obscure Suzhou taxi driver.
The numberplates on any Chinese taxi contain a character identifying the province, followed by a letter which identifies the town, followed by a series of numbers and letters which identify the car. In this case, its苏 for the province of Jiangsu, followed by E symbolizing Suzhou, ( A is for Nanjing, the capital of Jiangsu) followed by the plate numbers itself.