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My Weekender is a weekly column written by changing authors selected from the Beijing community. According to the various tastes, interests and backgrounds of its authors, My Weekender serves as a window into what residents in the city are doing with their time off.

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[My Weekender]: Beijing Taxi Driver, Mr. Li

Jan 25, 2013

Mr. Li is a 10+ year veteran of the Beijing taxi grind. He's a seasoned professional who's seen it all, who addresses his passengers with the appropriate mixture of polite curiosity and practiced nonchalance. We got to know Mr. Li on our traffic-choked post-work commute from Sanlitun to Gulou.

I'm from Beijing, like all taxi drivers in Beijing. I've been working since 5pm today. I get off work at 5am. One month I do the night shift, the next month I do the day shift. Now I'm on the night shift. I work seven days a week, 5 to 5. Like every weekend, I work.

I've been a cab driver for over 10 years now. I like driving on the ring roads surrounding the city. Like from here [Sanlitun] to the northwest third or fourth ring. Because it's fast. It's a really fast trip and it's more expensive. That's my favorite. But if you want to go downtown, inside the second ring, it's really slow. Just going from Beixinqiao to Di'anmen takes a really long time but it doesn't really cost anything. In the same amount of time I could go so far on the ring roads.

Driving a cab is not a very interesting job. Nothing really happens. It's just work. I'm used to it. I pick up anyone. Maybe more Chinese, but I also pick up a lot of foreigners. In Sanlitun and Wudaokou I pick up a lot of foreigners, lots of students in Wudaokou. I've picked up all kinds of people. Drunks. I've picked up people who can't remember where they live because they're too drunk. They just fall asleep and can't remember where their apartment is. I just have to tell them to get out of the cab.

I don't think Beijing is a particularly interesting city, actually. I don't have any feelings about it. I've been here every day of my life so I don't really care. I just get off work then go home.

I live north of the fifth ring, in Yanqin, a suburb of Beijing near Badaling on the Great Wall. That's where my family's from. I live there with my wife and two kids. My oldest is 22. She works on the train from Beijing to Lhasa. It's five days round trip, so she's gone a lot. She's not married, yet.

My youngest child is 18 years old, a senior in high school studying science. Since we're only allowed to have one child, I had to pay a fine when he was born. I paid 15,000rmb.

A few months ago traffic was really terrible, it was so annoying. Now it's getting better. Now I feel Beijing is not as busy, so it's probably easier for people to get taxis. In Sanlitun it's still pretty hard, but in other places it's OK. Downtown there's just to many lights, too much traffic.

I prefer to drive on the ring roads...

As told to Josh Feola. "Mr. Li" is not his real name....