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October 29, 2010

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A daily struggle on Shanghai's streets

Calling it a day, Hu Jianzhong drove his taxi home at 11:30pm.

"Now I understand the saying that time and tide wait for no man," said Hu, 53. "I feel like I can not do as much as I want to do."

Hu, who has been driving a cab for nearly 20 years, often talks to others and young drivers about his past, when there were not as many cabs and how he earned a lot more than his current average salary.

"Taxis used to be more like private cars chartered by rich business people," Hu said.

Time changes, though.

Hu gets up at 7:30am and leaves for work about 8am every day - late compared to many other cabbies.

"Considering the job, we are mostly our own bosses," said Hu. "To do more business or less depends on you - you should take good care of yourself."

Instead of driving downtown to pick up the morning commuters, Hu said he would go to the outer ring to try and find some long-distance passengers - a more lucrative business practice.

A driver needs to keep the car running, as business will be lost when stuck in traffic jams during peak hours, Hu said.

"Business is made on running wheels, not on jams," said Hu.

His long experience and familiarity with city roads give Hu the edge in finding more fares.

He makes 30 to 40 trips a day, taking home 4,000 (US$598) to 5,000 yuan a month after giving the required share to the owner company, Shanghai Dazhong Taxi Co.

"I could earn that much years ago," said Hu.

Old and experienced, Hu warns younger drivers not to be in too much of a rush to make money and pay more attention to their health as the job "is a stressful one." Hu has never been involved in an accident in his career.

"But sometimes they just won't listen. After getting their cars damaged during accidents or picking up traffic tickets, they will learn."


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