I’m Probably Engaged. (Or “Reason #236 Why I Should Learn Chinese Already”)

March 18, 2012

I know I blather on endlessly about how I don’t talk to boys or ever go on a date unless I manage trick the guy into it. (Which totally works, by the way.)

But, I’ll have you know, I do have my suitors.

It’s just that I tend to attract a certain type. This type varies from country to country. But, unfortunately, this type is never my type.

For example, in Japan, I always seemed to be a hit among the septuagenarian crowd.

If I entered a bar and there were any men over seventy in that bar, they would instantly vie to sit next to me. And, trust me, you haven’t seen a bar fight until you’ve seen canes and false teeth involved.

Once, while I was on a hike in Sapporo, a wizened old man popped out of the woods to tell me that I was pretty and ask me if I wanted to go home with him.

Another time, while I was running a race, a man who could not have been a day younger than eighty insisted we hold hands while we ran over the finish line together.

I always figured it was my classic beauty attracting these guys – maybe I just reminded them of some movie starlet from the olden days.

Audrey Hepburn, is that you?

Or maybe they just like their ladies sturdy-looking, like they’re capable of pushing a wheelchair or two.

While I was never tempted by these men’s advances, I can’t say I wasn’t flattered.  I mean, who am I to look a gift horse in the mouth? Especially when that gift horse is telling me that I’m pretty?

In China, I tend to attract a different type – specifically, the unmetered taxi driver type.

You see, my neighborhood is teeming with unmetered taxi cab drivers – men (and a few plucky women), who have a car and a dream.

And, admittedly, a healthy disregard for The Man as, technically, this line of work is illegal here. But, hey, it’s China, where it pays to be a lawless cowboy.

Rules, schmules. This is China.

Taking a ride with one of these men kind of feels like you’re taking a ride with your good-natured, next door neighbor – that is if you’re good-natured, next door neighbor drove like a maniac, didn’t speak a word of English and had a habit of hitting on you.

Because, not to brag or anything, these guys hit on me a lot.

Almost every time I take an unmetered taxi ride, the driver will ply me with his business card and insist I call him.

Yeah, so his car didn't really look anything like that.

Seeing as I don’t speak much Chinese, I’m not entirely sure what I would say to the guy if I did call him. How do you say, “Hey, remember me? We met in your car?” in Mandarin?

He’ll usually insist I sit in the front seat next to him, and then he gets offended if I attempt to put on a seat belt. As if I’ve somehow questioned his driving ability and his manhood all at the same time.

One time, my friends and I got into an unmetered cab with a driver who had techno music blaring from his dashboard. As soon as he saw me, the driver grabbed my hand and started dancing with me. While he was driving at top speed. And I was sitting in the back seat.

It was a little bit awkward, but I went with it.

Meanwhile, I don’t get the same reaction from the drivers of metered taxis. I’d like to think this is because I have a tendency to attract the bad boy, law-breaking type.

But I suspect it might have something to do with these:

You see, all the metered taxis in Wuxi have metal bars surrounding the drivers. A language barrier is one thing. But metal bars? These would make it really hard to flirt.

I tend to be more flattered and entertained by the playful advances of my local unmetered taxi drivers rather than offended. As I said before, I try not to look a gift horse in the mouth. Especially if that gift horse is asking me to dance. Because I’ll pretty much take any opportunity to dance.

But, after a few incidents recently, I’m starting to think I might be giving these guys the wrong idea.

Last Friday, I was going into town to meet up with my friend, Fiona, who lives in Shanghai and was taking time out of her busy food photographer of the year finalist schedule to check out the many wonders of Wuxi.

Bacony noodles. Just one of the many wonders of Wuxi. I'll expect your visit soon.

As I was already running quite late to meet her, I opted to take a taxi into town instead of the bus. The road in front of the campus where I live is usually swarming with unmetered taxi drivers, so I didn’t figure this would be a problem. But, on that day, when I hurried out to look for one, there was only one lone driver – standing next to his car, grinning at me.

Maybe fate brought us together.

Or maybe it was just a busy Friday in Wuxi.

Either way, it felt meant to be.

Or, at least, he must have taken it that way.

Things started out pretty normal.

I showed him a slip of paper with the Chinese characters for the place I needed to go and jumped into the front seat. I attempted to strap myself in with the seat belt while he insisted I didn’t need it and sped off in the direction of downtown.

During the thirty-minute ride into the city center, he would chatter away in Chinese. Every once in a while, I would catch some words I knew like “American” and “pretty.” To which, I would respond enthusiastically with the only words I knew, like “Yes! American! Good!” and “Thank you! Pretty! You’re welcome!”

But, for the most part, I had no clue what he was saying, so I would just kind of nod along and smile.

In hindsight, I realize this might have been the wrong tactic to take. This is kind of a dangerous thing to do when you have no idea what someone is saying. It’s possible he thought I was agreeing with whatever he was saying. He might have been asking me if I wanted to be his wife. Or his mistress. Or his dungeon slave.

And then, he said in English, “I love you.”

And, a few minutes later, “Kiss me.”

I have to say I was a bit alarmed.

Our relationship was moving fast – really fast.

Meanwhile, the car was not.

He kept pulling the car over to the side of the road so he could punch some word or phrase into his phone translator and then show the English translation to me.

He would regularly slow down to look me pointedly in the eyes and tell me something in Chinese. Possibly a line from some ancient, romantic, Chinese poem. Or suggestions for meals he’d like me to cook for him once I become his wife.

At one point, he stopped in the middle of traffic so he could snap a picture of me on his camera phone.

I started to suspect he was doing all this just so he could prolong the drive and spend more time with me.

I couldn’t help being a bit flattered and impressed by the man. Even if he was making me really, really late. And increasing my chances of being involved in a fiery car crash.

I mean, he wasn’t about to let little things like a language barrier or traffic get in the way of his expressing his feelings for me. How could I begrudge the guy a little extra time with me?

This was possibly one of the best relationships I’ve had in years.

Okay, maybe I haven’t had a relationship in years.

But still.

I didn’t kiss him, but I did take a picture of the two of us on my camera. After all, it’s entirely possible I’ve agreed to marry the guy. I’ll need a photo of my future husband to show my folks.

Meet your future son-in-law, Mom and Dad.

The following day, I grabbed a ride home from the grocery store with another unmetered taxi driver.

As he was driving, he chattered at me in Chinese and kept on making a gesture with his thumbs that looked like he was playing a video game. But, from the way he was looking at me and grinning, I had a feeling this wasn’t the gesture for, “Let’s go play video games together.”

And then he patted his stomach and asked the word, “Baby?”

Maybe he was just asking me if I had a baby.

But it kind of felt like he was asking me if I wanted to have his baby.

Either way, I wasn’t willing to find out.

When we showed up at the gate of the campus where I live, I gave him the fare and quickly bustled out of the car with my groceries.

After that, I vowed to start taking the bus more. People on the bus never make questionable gestures at me or ask me if I want to have their baby.

Besides, I should probably stop gallivanting around town with other unmetered taxi cab drivers. My future husband looks like he might be the jealous type.

Do you have a tendency to attract the wrong type? Or maybe you have some tips on how I can start attracting the right type? Share them. Please!

I've blathered on long enough! Now it's your turn!

  1. On March 18, 2012 at 4:53 am Priya said:

    Oh My God! So there are two types of cabs.. unmetered taxi and metered taxi? I’m guessing one is slightly more expensive than the other?
    Aren’t you ever scared riding in these unmetered taxis? Ahh so creepy!
    I def attract the wrong type.. i feel like I walk around with the words “Creep/freak magnet” written across my forehead. No, no the sane, normal, cute boys don’t want me.
    Ahh so creepy! well, I better get an invite to the wedding!
    Priya recently posted..Imma Groupon-Daily Deal Fool

  2. On March 18, 2012 at 4:57 am Ross said:

    Sorry, I have no tips for you. One of the tips I’ve given a few friends going to China is to always take metered taxis and always make them use the meter. I thought I was just helping them avoid paying too much for transportation. I always laugh when women tell about the things men say to them and the way they behave around them (well, usually laugh, sometimes it’s not funny).
    Ross recently posted..Jianchuan Photoshopped – Part 2

    • On March 19, 2012 at 12:36 am Sally said:

      I usually take metered taxis in other cities, especially when I don’t know how much the fare is. But, in Wuxi, I usually take the unmetered ones since those are the ones that are most readily available and they can sometimes be a bit cheaper than the metered taxis. But, I may have to cough up some extra change and just take the metered ones. I think I’m starting to get too much of a reputation among the unmetered drivers.

  3. On March 18, 2012 at 5:15 am Valerie Hamer said:

    Hehehe I laughed so much reading this. Your future hubby does look kind of cute!

    I think this kind of thing is a taxi driver trait. Last year a cabbie in Busan was determined we should meet again – even though I lied through my teeth about having a husband.

  4. On March 18, 2012 at 6:10 am Waegook Tom said:

    HAHAHA! Ohmygod this is brilliant, Sally. I think you guys make quite a cute couple. Maybe you’ll get your very own Asian baby that you can give a perm to and dress up in a bow tie!
    Waegook Tom recently posted..Makkeolli Love

  5. On March 18, 2012 at 7:44 am Theodora said:

    You know where I am right now? EGYPT.

    Trust me, the gentlemen here make the men of China look quite the dream of chivalry.
    Theodora recently posted..The Friday Photo: Bedouin Man, Sinai

  6. On March 18, 2012 at 11:02 am Selly said:

    This reminds me of my first year in Ireland, where I attracted only the wrong guys without even trying to and just about anywhere I went…the bar, the hostel, the tram, the walk home and wherever else I went. Somehow being chatted up in your local supermarket is no fun if the guy doesn’t intend to take some 40% of the final bill. I like how you humour those taxi driver advances, keep us up to date about your possible husband to be and the father of your child 😉

  7. On March 18, 2012 at 11:09 am Katherina said:

    I tend to attract the wrong type too… it all started when I was 14 and walked along a caribbean beach in the evening, with my mom and my aunt… and the hotel’s night watcher came out of nowhere to hold my hand and ask my mom for permission to marry me (he was a gentleman!). 14 years later, the same things still happen to me. This really makes me wonder whether I still look like I’m 14!
    Katherina recently posted..Picture This: The Guardian

  8. On March 18, 2012 at 1:18 pm Laura said:

    In China, I get the attention of lonely expats in public places. I have to say they are not as cute as your car driver. I wrote a little about it here http://www.laurajaramillo.com/post/18312107324/being-an-expat-is-like-being-a-little-drunk (but I only with I were as funny as you are).

    I haven’t gotten to write about a certain military attache of a certain embassy that used to call me to see how I woke up, calling me “beautiful” and suggesting we “go get coffee” in the middle of the day in weekdays. Even though he is at least 30 years my senior and I met him while he was with his wife and 12 year old daughter!

  9. On March 18, 2012 at 4:48 pm 50+ and on the Run said:

    1. I have to admit I paused to imagine the video-game finger thing…and
    2. Bacony noodles–possibly better than video-game fingers.
    50+ and on the Run recently posted..Sunday Haiku XXII

  10. On March 18, 2012 at 10:10 pm jan said:

    If I leave my mother (87 y.o. and married to my father for over 60 years)sitting outside a supermarket for 5 minutes, she has an admirer when I return. Guys chat her up on planes, at markets, in cafes. I had better not mention your magnetism for bad boy taxi drivers.

  11. On March 18, 2012 at 10:55 pm Andi of My Beautiful Adventures said:

    Hahaha oh how I love your writing! Such a shame we didn’t get to meet a couple of weeks ago 🙁
    Andi of My Beautiful Adventures recently posted..My Wedding & Honeymoon: Day 17

  12. On March 18, 2012 at 11:00 pm Aaron @ Aaron's Worldwide Adventures said:

    Sally, you are just too much! Why fear this kind of marriage? After all, chances are your future baby will have amazing (read: erratic) driving skills! And perhaps they could get a job as an unmetered taxi driver. We have plenty of those in NYC. See? Plenty of options for work!
    Aaron @ Aaron’s Worldwide Adventures recently posted..Conquering Sunrise at Masada

  13. On March 19, 2012 at 12:10 am Tawny of Captain and Clark said:

    No real advice here… although if you’re looking for husbands in different area codes I’d suggest making a stop in South Korea. The taxi drivers are just as friendly and equally as willing to settle down with a foreigner. I resorted to wearing a ring on my ring finger just to let them down a little easier. 😉
    Tawny of Captain and Clark recently posted..I want to “Go with Oh” to Paris, France! Le sigh.

  14. On March 19, 2012 at 1:33 am Heather said:

    I once got into an unmetered cab in NYC with a colleague without realizing it wasn’t an official one. He certainly took a longer route from the theater to our hotel. When he dropped us off, he longingly asked what we were up to the rest of the night and we gave him the money and bolted. I can’t remember what else he said at the time, but we named him Sketchy McSketch.

    I tend to smile and be too polite so I’ve attracted the wrong type quite often over the years without meaning to…maybe you should scowl more often 😉
    Heather recently posted..St. Patrick’s Day: Green + Guinness

    • On March 19, 2012 at 12:02 pm Sally said:

      Ha ha. I feel since I don’t know any Chinese the least I can do is be pleasant… but, apparently, my being pleasant is giving everyone all the wrong ideas!

  15. On March 19, 2012 at 10:46 am Laurence said:

    It sounds better than the sort of “you’ll never guess who I had in my cab last week” stuff you get from London cabbies… 😉
    Laurence recently posted..To Barcelona! (Your input required!)

  16. On March 19, 2012 at 12:26 pm ChinaMatt said:

    You need to learn to ask, “If I kiss you, is the ride free?”
    ChinaMatt recently posted..Happy St. Patrick’s Day

  17. On March 19, 2012 at 12:28 pm Sid said:

    Great and now my life see considerably boring next to yours.

  18. On March 19, 2012 at 1:36 pm Feng Shui By Fishgirl said:

    Hilarious! Back in the 1980’s when I was traveling to Hong Kong monthly, I would often get taxi drivers who recognized me from previous trips (why were they keeping track of me?!!) and I felt like a celebrity. One guy told me he had me in his taxi 2 years earlier and I believed him. Oh, he didn’t have me in the biblical sense, just that I took a taxi ride in his car. LoL. Great blog and I will subscribe.

    • On March 20, 2012 at 12:50 am Sally said:

      Wow, did they really recognize you or was it something they said to get a tip out of you? I’d be impressed if someone recognized me from 2 years ago. I barely recognize myself from 2 years ago. (A few too many dumplings, you see…)

      • On March 20, 2012 at 5:08 pm Feng Shui By Fishgirl said:

        They really did recognize me. How do I know? Because they said “You are very famous! Very famous fashion designer from NYC!” (the company I worked for was owned by a very famous designer). Anyway,it was hilarious and no it did not have any affect on my tip 🙂
        Feng Shui By Fishgirl recently posted..A HAUNTING STATE PARK

  19. On March 19, 2012 at 3:24 pm vani said:

    Hahahahahha. totally lost it at “i love you and kiss me”. Avoid eye contacts as much as possible, might seem u’re least interested and give off “not so-easy to approach” feeling

  20. On March 19, 2012 at 3:34 pm Sabrina said:

    Hahaha! Thanks for this post. I really needed a laugh this morning… and progressing from not knowing somebody to “I love you” in 30 minutes must be some sort of record 🙂 I think just that one experience would have scared me (or made me uncomfortable enough) to take only metered cabs from then on. You’re brave, Sally!
    Sabrina recently posted..Popular Food in Germany: What This German Expat Sometimes Dreams of

    • On March 20, 2012 at 12:48 am Sally said:

      Not brave. Just impatient. There’s never any metered cabs where I live and the bus takes forever, so I always end up taking unmetered cabs… and then this happens.

  21. On March 19, 2012 at 6:52 pm Ayngelina said:

    Wait what do those bars protect them from, they could still be stabbed. I`m confused.
    Ayngelina recently posted..Pigging out in Playa del Carmen

    • On March 20, 2012 at 12:47 am Sally said:

      “They could still be stabbed”?!? Ayngelina, darling, it’s obvious you’ve been spending too much time in South America. People don’t stab each other in China (or, at least, not that much). The bars are just there to prevent robberies (which do happen… but, as far as I know, not that much). In bigger cities, the bars are usually replaced by a plastic shield. Maybe this prevents stabbings?

  22. On March 19, 2012 at 8:45 pm Ceri said:

    Oh dear lord, I hope I’m invited to your wedding. 😉

    I actually have zero advice for you because I seem to attract the wrong kind of men here too – the sleezy, learing type that do nothing but stare on the Metro and then pinch my ass as I leave. Ergh.
    Ceri recently posted..Letter to My Mother

  23. On March 20, 2012 at 11:15 am Naomi said:

    perhaps I shouldn’t burst your bubble but it isn’t you. Those taxi guys are desperate to find a woman:
    1. there’s a real shortage of chinese women in China due to the one child policy and a lot of infanticide meaning this generation of men are competing for a small pool of women who are in a buyers market
    2. those guys are probably illegals, without Wuxi resident permits, and you could solve that problem for them
    3. a ticket to America is pretty attractive, you’re the ticket, sorry….

    feel free to put me on your “horrible people who just can’t help busting my fantasies” list, I think it’s next to the list of challengie things. on the floor, near the sofa. with the dumpling stains on it…

    • On March 20, 2012 at 11:32 am Sally said:

      Sheez. Buzz kill, much? 🙂
      Yeah, yeah, I know it’s not me. They flirt with all my female, foreign coworkers. But I don’t think it’s because they want to marry any of us. They mostly flirt with us because foreign women have something of a reputation in these parts and they’re trying to see if its a deserved reputation. Usually it’s just harmless fun that no one takes very seriously… just like, ahem, my blog posts.

  24. On March 20, 2012 at 3:30 pm Ali said:

    I’m glad you’re able to get funny stories out of this stuff, I would just be incredibly uncomfortable and freaked out by random taxi drivers asking me to have their baby.
    Ali recently posted..Melbourne’s Queen Victoria Market in Photos

  25. On March 20, 2012 at 3:38 pm FiFi said:

    Hilarious post – I loved it.
    Best of luck with all your suitors!

  26. On March 21, 2012 at 3:40 pm choi kum fook said:

    Ha!Ha! Very funny and amusing post! Because I am a male, I don’t have any tactic or experience to attract the right man. So I couldn’t help you right now. I hope fate will bring you luck!

  27. On March 22, 2012 at 9:39 am Jen Horn said:

    Hey Sally!

    Found out about your blog through Lois Yasay of http://www.wearesolesisters.com recently.

    Not a lot of writers these days are so candid.
    A lot of the blogs I encounter are either so cold and factual, or overly descriptive and boring, or pretentious.

    So yay!

    Thank you for giving us a weekly dose of entertainment. 😛

    Jen Horn recently posted..Punchdrunk Panda’s WHY

    • On March 22, 2012 at 1:15 pm Sally said:

      So glad you’re enjoying the blog! Yes, no cold, factual posts for me. In fact, I try to stay away from the facts as much as possible. 🙂

  28. On March 26, 2012 at 9:32 am Lauren said:

    A good laugh! Yes, I had similar experiences while traveling solo in Africa for 9 months. Men, the ones who were never my type and never going to be, always seemed to be the ones giving me the most attention…

    Then again, they thought of me as a walking visa or ready for the “full Africa experience!” HA.
    I wish I had some tips for ya… I’m in your boat!

  29. On March 29, 2012 at 5:05 am Carl said:

    Haha nice one Sally. A very good read indeed.

    One of my favourite cab rides in Wuxi was a guy who insisted on playing 80’s ballads on full blast while attempting to sing them. He murdered Lionel Ritche. It was like KTV (or CarTV) with his mini-disco lights on the dashboard.

    Like you say, they have a car and a dream…. What else does a man need?

  30. On May 22, 2012 at 1:10 pm Eugene said:

    Erm…. did I miss something? Quite a few… commentors… commentators…comments (where’s that thesaurus) mentioned your hubby as cute? Maybe if he was 20 years younger and called brad pitt and not from wookieland and actually brad pitt, then yes maybe. Other than that, he trying to bat in the premier league when he’s actually still in training for the chewbacca league! Don’t sell yourself short girl, yoiu can do better!;)

    Btw, you haven’t been in a taxi until you’ve been in a taxi in South Africa, and I am not talking about the nice-rip-the-tourists-off metered ones from the airport. I’m talking about the 16seater, un-metered,fix-fare flesh-bombs that prowl our streets. Actually, they don’t prowl many streets since they never stay on the actual street long enough to prowl – the pavements, next to the road, the railway tracks, they’ll drive anywhere at 100m/h with a monkey wrench clamped onto the steering shaft as a steering wheel. The legal limit is 16 passengers – the national record is 42 plus a sheep. Authorities have stopped a guy carrying 95 children, but they’re small, so they don’t count! Being hit on is not nearly as dangerous as simply being hit.

    All true! Welcome to Africa. Come visit.


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