The Chinese say “在家靠父母.出门靠朋友” for good reason.
I went to my chiropractor this morning. Decided to take a taxi.
I spoke to the taxi driver in my poor Mandarin, asking him if he knew how to go to the chiro’s office. He did. We drove a few KM and then he asked me what country I was from. From there we had a simple but sufficient conversation about life in China, the USA, and Spring Festival. Most of the questions he asked me were common but those that weren’t I could piece together and so I felt relaxed and encouraged at the slight improvement of my listening skills.
The driver seemed genuinely excited about Spring Festival and he talked a lot about it, which wasn’t surprising to me. Some of the simplest Chinese people I’ve met are taxi drivers. Simple in a good way and sometimes in a bad way but most are simple in a good way.
We continued to talk slowly about life and the approaching holiday and eventually arrived at my chiro’s office at 世纪村。The taxi fare was 11 RMB but I only had 2 tens. I gave him the bills and apologized that I didn’t have exact change, since that can really upset some of the taxi drivers. The driver took one of the tens and handed me the other one back. I couldn’t believe his generosity and without thinking I told him “我想给您春节小费，可以吗？祝您新年快乐！恭喜发财！” As I expected, he didn’t consent to a tip but he responded whole-heartedly to my wish for a happy and prosperous new year and with that he put the money in his pocket. We both knew he’d spend it on his grandchildren or maybe on a pint with his drinking buddies. Either way it was all good.
I exited that taxi feeling really warm hearted. I had a stupid grin on my face walking into the chiro’s office but I was just happy to have had such a sincerely pleasant experience with a native Beijinger. I felt more confident about my practical language skills and happy to have met a nice guy. Together we made a friendly moment happen and that felt good.
When I was a child, my home and parents were the only life I knew. They were like a blanket around me. In the cold they were a thick down-filled coat to keep me warm. As I grew up, more people came into my life and each of them was like a piece of cloth. Eventually I no longer had a single one-pieced jacket of my parents anymore, there were many different pieces of cloth of all different colors, textures and sizes, and what sewed them together were the relations between us. Some stitches are stronger than others, but together there’s a big patchwork of a coat that now keeps me warm when the world is very cold. The people are like cloth and our relations are like the stitches, but then there’s the buttons. The buttons are the random acts of kindness and friendship we offer not just to our friends but to anyone. You can sew a button on any piece of cloth. The buttons keep the coat wrapped around me. If there were no buttons, my coat would fly open in the cold and I’d freeze to death.