The taxis in Wenzhou will rarely go out of their way for you if your desired destination is outside their preferred radii of operation.

They do, however, reserve their right to pick up additional passengers along the way to where you’re going. Hitting two birds with one stone. Hitting a foreign bird, even better, because it won’t know one route from the other, and it hasn’t the tongue or the energy to argue about its fare being reduced for the inconvenience of what looks, feels, and smells like a detour. Just getting in a taxi was trial enough, what with the sign language and the pointing and gesturing at a photograph of a street sign saved on the iPhone or at a business card of the place where you are going.

A plastic partition hugs the drivers’ seat and separates him (there are the odd “her”s) not only from the back seat passengers but even from the shotgun rider. You must reach over it to hand over the fare, which, thankfully, hovers around the 10 to 12 Renmibi mark. You haven’t dared venture beyond a specific radius yourself, it turns out.

In Addis, you don’t even bother with the taxis, because you belong to that class who can afford not to. The mere mention of taking a taxi to a given destination strikes terror into your germ and pickpocket-averse self. A small sliver of you wants to go for it anyway, for the adventure, for the trip down memory lane to a younger time when taxis were your only link between the confinement of home (thanks God for DSTV though) and the secret pleasures of loitering about the city in hangouts that would absolutely scandalize your respectable parents, if only they knew of it.

Overall, though, you see visions of pushing, shoving, disease, poverty, discomfort and infestation. You’d rather wait for as long as it takes for your designated driver to arrive from whatever errand he (always a “he”) is currently running. Nothing beats a free ride.

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