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We skip ahead to when I'm waiting for taxi. I called him maybe one minute before I was ready to go. I said, "I'm ready to leave SPCA." After a pause, I added code phrase "Cat daughter." Guess what he did? You guessed it... he laughed. "Ten minutes," he told me.
I went outside to wait. Taxis passed by me frequently, trying to give me a ride. With each taxi, I looked in at driver, unsure if I'd recognize my new best friend, then waved him by. As he passed, I could finally see by license number on back that I was correct. I supposed -- I hoped -- if I did try to wave my guy by, he'd just ignore me and stop anyway.
Twelve minutes later, a taxi slowed to a stop beside me, but I knew it wasn't my guy. Then another taxi came barreling up behind this one, Out of Service sign on windshield, honking his horn and flashing his flashers. Immediately I knew. My buddy. He was laughing and smiling as he stopped.
He pointed at cat carrier. "Is she okay?"
He nodded vigorously. "Good, good. How much?"
"Sixty dollars." (That was about eight US dollars.)
"Sixty," he repeated.
"Yes. She only needed a shot."
"Ah, good. She is good cat."
We drove around looping roads that lead out of Wan Chai. Then he spoke again.
"I used to live here. Now I live in Sha Tin." Sha Tin is where he'd picked me up. "I get up early every morning. Very early. I live in Sha Tin six years. Your home?"
"Oh." He nodded approval. "Very good, Sha Tin. Very nice." By now we were moving rapidly down freeway, away from Wan Chai and toward Sha Tin. He pointed to traffic going into Wan Chai. It was bumper to bumper. "Too much traffic."
"Yes." It seems he was using a lot more words than I was, doesn't it?
I finally noticed color of his hair. In my early-morning fog, I had it in my mind that it was gray. It would be consistent with lines of age in his face. But looking at back of his head on way home, I saw that it was a brown-orange color. Dyed. In fact, it even matched one of Picasso's colors. Her other two colors are black and white.
Finally, Sha Tin. He pointed at some buildings, around corner from my own apartment complex. "My home. Six years, my home. Is very nice. Wan Chai, no good. Hong Kong, no good. Sha Tin, very good."
We didn't need more English for me to know why he felt that way, which is good because he probably didn't know it. Hong Kong's reputation is one of crowds and traffic and hustle and bustle. But fact is, that's only in central areas. Out in Sha Tin, we still have high-rise buildings, but it's not nearly so crowded. It's much more relaxed. We even have a park or two, and some very friendly cab drivers.
So what's my point?
Is it that an American, living in Hong Kong and speaking only English, is so desperate for human contact that even a conversation with a cab driver warrants publication?
No, not at all.
It's that people are people everywhere, and that you never know when a total stranger will become a friend, even if it's only for one morning.
Plus, many of us love cats.
Picasso's been with us through five years, two provinces, three cities, and seven Chinese flats. We currently reside in Hangzhou, where I bicycle around on quests for tuna and cat litter while Picasso stays home being beautiful. She's the star of my free weekly newswletter, WHO MOVED MY RICE?, http://www.chinarice.org Also, she has a much bigger scratching post now.