Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Taxi Driver Doctor

I have surely mentioned before that one of my main complaints about taxi riding in Beijing in the winter is the need to ask drivers to close their windows all the time. Today as I left work the cab that picked me up, after I had waited in the cold on the street for several minutes, had its window open so I asked the driver to close it. He looked back at me through the mirror with a sort of querulous look, and I knew that he was thinking to himself "this guy has a runny nose, it is not safe to close the window", but I reiterated the request before he could say anything. He grudgingly closed the window, but it was still quite cold in the car, even with my LL Bean down coat zipped to my chin, a wool hat on my head and a scarf around my neck, so I asked him if the heater was on. Indeed it was not, and again he was reluctant to turn it on, but this time he said to me "ni gan mao le", which means "you have a cold". I answered by saying I do not have a cold, I have just been standing in the cold and it's cold in the car, and if he doesn't turn the heat on I will catch a cold. Well, this did not sit with him at all, so he sort of snorted at me. At this point I asked if he was a doctor. Of course he was not, so I said that I work in healthcare and think that I have a good handle on what's a cold and what's not, and what can and cannot cause a cold to worsen. He asked if I'm a doctor, and I figured the easiest way to shut him up was to say yes, but then he asked me what my specialty was. I told him I am a family practitioner, which again elicited a snort from him (there is no such thing in China, where instead every doctor is a specialist), and the question what my specialty is. I explained that I specialize in all general ailments, so he asked if I am a surgeon or not. I told him 'not', so he snorted again, disparaging my qualifications to make a prognosis based on my limited knowledge. He then asked if I trained overseas or in China, and was not at all impressed that I trained in the US.

Of course, I was very offended that he did not respect my medical degree or my qualification to make a medical diagnosis, but before long I remembered that in fact I have no medical degree at all. But then again, neither did he, nor any other taxi driver I have driven with, and yet they all seem to know that they are going to die of a cold if a passenger with a runny nose gets in a car with closed windows.