Now, as much as the aforementioned incidents proved to be incredibly frightening, with each occurrence coming very close to melting my then phoney sangfroid, (War hero I certainly was not) it was almost small beer in relation to the threatening reaction of my Chinese taxi driver, this when I failed to settle with him appropriately…in his opinion of course.
The fare to my hotel came to around 55 Yuan, about £4.50 or $6.00. Firstly, he wished to be paid in US Dollars, twenty of them in all, with a further five dollars to meet his tip. He must have considered me as some ‘wet-behind-the-ears’ tourist, one with little or no experience in dealing with the excesses of greedy ferrymen.
I immediately responded to his attempted thievery by conveying two simple words, I shall refrain from conveying the precise terminology that I transmitted in his direction, needless to say, the letter ‘F’ figured prominently in my brief response to his woeful attempt at highway robbery, I then handed over sixty Yuan and attempted to climb out of his dilapidated vehicle – at which point, this guy went berserk!
By this time, I was out of the car, (thankfully) but he then alighted and came at me with a metal torch and started waving it hysterically, very close to my face. I patiently attempted to explain that should he choose to continue with his unfortunate and unnecessary conduct, I would take great delight in delivering a swift, hefty blow to his thorax region, that of which, should he be very fortunate of course, would land him in a wheelchair for the remainder of his pathetic existence – wow!
Something must have been lost in translation as ‘Odd Job’ failed to comprehend the full extent of my intentions, fortunately for him however, the doorman of my chosen hostelry had heard the clamour outside, and as one who could speak English proficiently, immediately rushed out to come between me and my ‘Bruce Lee’ wannabe assailant, in an most-welcome attempt to defuse the ensuing conflict.
The cascade of perspiration that transcended down my spine during this ‘altercation’ – had precious little to do with the high humidity levels on the day – my oriental fracas had serious weight loss implications – and not merely through dripping sweat, this frightful confrontation was horrifyingly coupled with the distressing reaction that one excruciatingly endures following a generous swig of a powerful laxative – apart from this disagreeable symptom however, I was doing just fine…not!!!
In effect, the dutiful doorman had to physically restrain the driver, this whilst gasping to me that he was going to call the police, advising me further, to enter the hotel and check-in, adding that my luggage would follow immediately, which it duly did.
As I hastily removed myself from this macabre, fierce war of words, I recognised that the taxi driver had become extremely red in the face, salivating profusely – and appeared to be a mere single breath away from a massive cardiac arrest, he was also crying – tears of anger and unparalleled frustration, nothing more, nothing less – I did receive a full apology from the hotel management, with a free dinner thrown-in for good measure, however, I couldn’t comprehend why the owners of the establishment chose to take sole responsibility for the fracas – oh, well, mustn’t grumble I guess.
Before partaking in the culinary delights of the region, I was escorted to my room on the fifth floor, a pleasant if not somewhat sparse chamber it must be said, yet, the bed appeared most comfortable – and it came with a much yearned-for shower, plus television, DVD player and tea and coffee service.
Needless to say, there were no TV stations that transmitted in English, I therefore soon found myself watching ‘Die Hard’, with Bruce Willis prancing about in his grubby vest and bare feet, proficiently extolling the virtues of his heroic manliness in the most perfect Mandarin tongue you could ever wish to hear – actually, I didn’t, so I switched him off and made for the shower…a much needed shower too.
The water was welcomingly hot and plentiful and as the cubicle offered an unusual seating arrangement, I simply sat down and just let the jet-stream saturate my now very weary frame, it had after all, been a very long day.
As strange as it may sound, I actually dozed off for a moment or two whilst showering, despite the intense pressure of the descending water, my psyche simply submitted to the weariness that consumed me – this surprised me very much, I’m normally a fairly resilient chap and one that can cope adequately under the pressures of fatigue – not on that particular day, sad to say.
As I contemplated the thought of removing myself from the cubicle in order to dry off and dress for dinner, I quickly sensed that I was not alone in my steamy WC, someone else was in my chambers, and of this I was certain.
My first thought lay with the hostile taxi driver, it was possibly he who had found his way into the hotel, then established my precise whereabouts, possibly with a view to knocking my block off. I stayed cool, (mentally speaking) and with soldier-like acumen, (well, nearly) I attempted to devise an immediate plan on how to overcome the threat I was now placed under.
I then detected movement outside the cubicle, but opted to keep the shower running as there was little point in making it too obvious that I was aware of the intruder’s unwelcome attendance.
I fretted a little at the prospect of physical contact whilst being totally nude, armed only with a towel and chunky bar of ‘Boots’ soap-on-a-rope, I mused that this was not the kind of weaponry one associates with Bruce Willis – I was only in possession of soft armaments, those that would be doomed to failure from the very start of any tussle – but, I had to go for it!
I speedily rose from the shower chair and threw open the glass door, armed with my flimsy towel, which I had wrapped around my left hand as means of protection from a possible knife attack, whilst in my right hand, I was swinging my soap from the rope that accompanied it – for a mere second or two, I must have appeared as a poor man’s Spartacus – yet light years removed from the figure that Kirk Douglas so successfully portrayed on film all those years ago.