My first week in Shanghai started off quite manic. My first day alone was insane enough to send anyone running back to the airport for the first flight home. After my crazy Monday, it was a very monsoonal Tuesday and I went slipping and sliding about the streets, determined to look around. I slipped a little too much and hurt my left foot. It was a pretty shade of violet for a few days and I was unable to walk. Feeling like a caged animal, Greg gave me the street card (address in Chinese and English from an app) for a western style supermarket. It is only 2km away but there was no way I could make it with my foot so I decided to get a taxi.
In the middle of the day the streets are fairly quiet. In all honesty the streets are generally quiet, which is especially surprising considering there is close to 40 million people in this city. The Chinese are smart and like many European and South American countries they sleep after they have eaten their lunch. It is nothing to walk past an old couple on hammock lounges under a shady tree on the street during the day or early afternoon catching some z's. I hobbled down my lane, past the sleeping neighborhood security office, turned onto the street to find it somewhat empty and hobbled to the corner to catch a taxi. I stood and waited, and waited and waited. Nothing. I decided to hobble to a busier corner, nothing came along or if it did there were people in it.
A lady appeared out of a house and walked to the corner where I was standing. She too was looking for a taxi. She looked me up and down as I tried to hail a cab. My eyes caught hers and without a spoken word, we were in competition. I love a challenge and I hadn't had one since Monday so I was ready. She was fair and clearly avoided the sun. I stood closer to the corner where there was sun blazing down on me. She stormed across the road so that if a taxi did come along they would see her first. I crossed too and hobbled towards the next intersection. 'Two can play at her game' I thought. But it was that move that gave away my weakness. I had no speed. She seized the opportunity to stride down the middle of the road with the sole purpose of losing me and my crippled foot. I was hobbling on the foot path she was bounding down the road. She got the first taxi. Locals - one. CJ - zero.
A little sad that I was unable to out-stride a short Asian lady, I continued my hobble towards the next intersection. There happened to be a restaurant on the corner. "Perfect", I thought. Taxis would definitely drive past to pick up people as they left the establishment. I stood there waiting, foot aching, sweat beading. Then I saw a street cleaning vehicle coming my way. There were jets of high pressure water spraying out from the sides of the vehicle. Cars were racing past it to minimize the spray on them. People were darting every which way to avoid it, street vendors woke up and waved their fists as it went past and sprayed them and their wares. I stood there watching this vehicle come towards me in what seemed like warp speed. I had no where to go. The spray was covering the street and the foot path. "Hobble around the corner!" I thought. "Perfect! I will avoid the spray!" As a took my painful steps, I turned to see the driver and his companion start smiling and turn the corner with me. I was trapped! No where to hobble to escape the spray. I swear they saw me start to hobble and turned the corner on purpose. They were absolutely killing themselves laughing as I stood there flat against a wall in the hope it would miraculously miss me. It didn't. "Bastards!" I said under my breath and resumed my quest for a taxi. Locals - two, CJ - zero
I stood back out on the corner waiting for the elusive taxis to drive past. I saw a taxi with its green lights on! Sweet! I hobbled out onto the street a little more so there was no way that he could miss me and waved my arm. His indicator went on and he slowed down. As I hobbled towards the slowing taxi, the door of the restaurant flung open, I turned to see what the noise was and a man in his early 20's ran out, ran in front of me opened the taxi door and jumped in. I went to open the front door of the taxi to have a word or two but the taxi sped off leaving me standing there. I nearly raised my middle finger at him and I definitely did not say "bastard!" under my breath this time. I was stunned. Today was not my day. I was so angry and my foot was throbbing I may have actually felt a tear start to pierce my eye. I pulled myself together and stood there at the ready. Ready to defend my path to the next taxi that came along. Locals - three, CJ - zero.
Within moments one did come along and there was no defending to be done. I got in, silently showed the taxi man my street card for the supermarket and silently he drove me there. He started to say something to me when we approached a busy area. I smiled and shrugged and he pulled over and I got out. I found the supermarket easily which was surprising and a relief as I wasn't excited about hobbling around in circles for a long time with my foot.
As I walked in the very first thing I saw was 'Paul's Milk' a little piece of home right on the shelf. For some reason it was so comforting to see a UHT carton of Australian milk. And then there was yoghurt, and Carmen's Muesli bars proudly waving the Australian flag in this international supermarket. There were no toads, no eels, no weird smells or parts of animals for sale. It was clean, it was pretty and it smelled... Well it didn't smell at all. It was lovely! I spent close to an hour looking through every aisle of this small market. Reading packets of food from all over the world. There was a bread section, a meat section, confectionary section, water, wine and beer and best of all a very small but workable baking section. I bought a few things for dinner and left.
It was once again time to find a taxi. No more being nice or polite. My elbows were out, I put my best 'don't mess with me' face on and I stood tall. I hobbled with purpose. I was going to get a taxi... Or not. There were people everywhere and taxis all over the place. I knew there was no way I was going to beat these quick footed locals to the door. I hobbled on and somehow found a taxi stand. I stood. With a line of others as 6 lanes of traffic flew past and the odd taxi pulled up. It was hot. I was sweaty as I stood in the sun. Well dressed ladies popped their umbrellas so the sun would not touch their skin. A young child was obviously making fun of me as his mother looked at me mortified and said something to me in a somewhat apologetic nature as this horrid little fat boy looked at me and pointed and laughed. His grandmother grabbed him and pulled him into line and I stood there glaring at him. He cringed. I was secretly happy that I made a little kid uncomfortable. Locals - 3, CJ - 1/2! (Let's face it, that was only half a win)
It was eventually my turn in the line, no one pushed in as I silently got into the taxi and silently showed him my street card. I gave one last glare at the little fat boy as we sped off joining in the streams of traffic seamlessly. I am, as you can imagine, perfecting my looks of disgust, disdain and anger. I am obviously not so good at my 'eff off this taxi is mine!' look. However, I will work on it for my next taxi adventure.