Steven and the Firecracker

We took an overnight train from Beijing to Dalian and lived to tell the tale, though perhaps a bit more tired than we otherwise would have been.

But, a highlight of today’s transportation events was watching Steven negotiate with a female ride coordinator at the Dalian train station.

I need to back up a little first. We are, clearly, Americans. And by all accounts on this train, we had a lot of luggage. We were warned to travel light. (For the record, I have one backpack and one carry-on sized suitcase. I am about in the middle of the pack, perhaps slightly to the lighter side.) Not everyone took heed. And, the train station is at some distance to our hotel here (near the Dalian Nationalities University campus.) We had too many bags for the light rail, and so we were planning to take taxis to the hotel, with 2-3 per taxi, depending on the number and size of bags.

A man approached Steven and suggested his van, which could take 6-7 people at once. He started a bit high (no less than the necessary number of taxis), but quickly dropped his price. While people were loading onto this van, a woman holding papers came up and started to yell at the driver, Steven, and Wilson. She yelled at the driver for dropping his price too low. She yelled at Steven for being unfair and looking for too low a price.

At some point, the van left, and the discussion between Steven and this woman became pure theater — lots of furious Chinese going back and forth, but sly smiles snuck by both parties in the short breaks. This went on for what seemed to be a very long time, the entire sequence was also quite animated. But, in the end, everyone was smiling and happy — a fair price was negotiated, neither incredibly high nor incredibly low.

But those of us watching the exchange got a real treat–some amazing street theater, involving one of our very own colleagues. (Steven himself used the term “firecracker” to describe his worthy opponent.)


1 Response to “Steven and the Firecracker”

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