As an expat with NIKE, you’re not allowed to drive in Shanghai. You’re required to hire a driver. With 20 million people living and working within Shanghai – I’m perfectly fine with that requirement.
The NIKE China office administrative team sets up the interviews. They work with an agency that owns the cars and employs the drivers. You are asked what type of car you would prefer. There are 3 choices – a Dodge mini-van, a VW Passat or a Buick Lacrosse. You are also asked to provide a list of requirements of the driver.
I wasn’t sure what my requirements might be for a driver. I’ve never had one. In fact, I don’t even like to be driven around by Greg. It might not surprise you but I don’t like to be driven by anyone. I like to drive myself. I like to be in control.
When I asked Greg what we should ask for in the requirements he just smiled. I’m sure he’s looking forward to having a driver more than I am and not a driver for himself, which is also part of the employment, but a someone else who has to Drive Miss Daisy around while I constantly slam on the imaginary brake, grab the door handle when I believe were going too fast around corners and provide audible soundbites as we ride the tail of the car in front of us or race to a red light. I’m sure this will provide him with great amusement.
We ended up meeting with 3 potential drivers. All of whom had worked previously for NIKE or Converse employees and all were from Shanghai. May, from the NIKE administrative team helped to conduct the interview just in case interpretation was needed.
Our first interview was with Jay. Jay came in the door smiling. He handed me a letter of reference from his previous NIKE employee and quickly began sharing information about himself. He was 44 yrs old. He has been driving for 10+ yrs. I asked what his typical day might have been like and were there any special requirements from his current Expat employee. May asked him if he had children and where he lived. This is an important question, May explained to us later because if he has school age children he will be pulled to help with his family and may not be available as we need him. Jay shared he had a son who was attending college. May asked if there were any family obligations that may pull him away from his duties? Was he available for evenings and weekends? Would he be able to switch his one day off a week from a weekend to a weekday? He replied “no problem” to everything and added that he would have to “check with his wife” on some occasions. I quickly added “she’s the real boss.” Jay laughed out loud and seemed to really enjoy my joke. I was thinking, man, I’m funny in any language. After the interview Greg shared with me that when I stated “she’s the real boss,” Greg leaned back so I couldn’t see and pointed to me in agreement with Jay about who really runs the show. May had one last question for Jay, “do you smoke?” Jay responded “just a little bit” and he laughed a big belly laugh.
Our next interview was with Kenny. Kenny was 45 yrs old. Seemed very serious and buttoned up. His english was perfect. He had a daughter in college. He was agreeable to all our requests. He didn’t smoke. He asked if I like sports and shared with me that he likes to walk 5k a day.
Ron was our last interview. He did not have a letter of recommendation. He was visibly nervous to the point, I said, “just relax and take a deep breath.” May had to ask the questions in Chinese and he tried hard to answer the questions in english. He finally said “my english. no.” He asked May a question and she turned to us and asked if we would like to go see the car that he drives. We said sure and headed down to the parking garage. It was a brand new Buick and Ron opened the doors for us to get in the back. He then took us for a drive around the parking garage. He was showing us his driving skills would make up for his lack of ability to speak english.
After all three interviews Greg and I sat with May in the conference room to discuss. She wouldn’t even allow us to consider Ron as she explained, your driver is your lifeline to the city. They help pay your bills – all done in cash by the way. Your rent and utilities are all paid in cash. You’re given a bill, you give the bill and the cash to your driver and he takes it to the utility office and pays it. He then returns with your receipt.
They help in emergency situations. We found out while on tour of the local hospital that if you are injured and still concious, you should have your driver bring you to the hospital. With 20 million people in the city, calling and waiting on an ambulance can take hours. The dispatcher determines your priority based on your call. The nurse showing us around shared the example of a broken foot. Use your driver or get yourself in a cab. An ambulance will not come to help you. Good to know.
So considering all we now know we were faced to make a decision. We chose Kenny. We agreed Jay would be fun to have a beer with but that’s not really what you should be looking for in a driver. Kenny seemed very adult-like, no nonsense and wanted to share his city and culture with us.
So when we return in September, we will be driven around by Kenny in our Black Buick Lacrosse. I can’t wait to start helping Kenny improve his driving techniques.