Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Labor Of Love


Baozhai, a 34 year old boat taxi driver, was one of the few women plying the waters of Zhou Zhuang, a small water village on the outskirts of Suzhou, China. That's because the local boat taxi ranks were, like many things in China, dominated by men, and that had been the case for hundreds of years.

As a child, Baozhai developed a borderline pathological interest in boats, and by age 16, had begun hanging out by the docks of the town looking for chances to work as a boat taxi driver. But the drivers laughed at her, and refused to give her a shot, even as they taught the tricks of the trade to local boys her age.

So Baizhai resolved to take matters into her own hands. One day, when a fisherman was on lunch break, she snuck onto his parked boat, cut the lines, and headed off to pick up some passengers. She figured she'd borrow the fisherman's boat, make a few passenger runs, and be back before he realized it was missing.

In the end, Baozhai ended up being faster than any of the other boat drivers, and she made a tidy sum in the 30 min the boat's owner was away. When he came back, Baozhai confessed to her misdeed and showed him the money. A huge smile crossed his face. It turned out that he was sick of the boat taxi trade and was looking to get out.

And that's how Baozhai became a taxi boat driver, doing what she loves best.

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