A Beijing taxi driver who has taken his wife who suffers from Alzheimer’s to work with him every day for the past three years has become an internet celebrity despite saying he wants to be left alone.
The story of 66-year-old Shen Deli became the latest hot topic on Chinese social media last week after one of his passengers decided to make it public.
The businessman, named Cai Hongyan, wrote in a post widely shared on Weibo and WeChat that Shen was missing out on business because he had a poor rating on Didi – China’s largest taxi hailing platform – as a result of would-be passengers cancelling their orders after discovering his wife would be in the car.
“She’s my wife. We keep each other company no matter what,” Cai quoted Shen as saying in the social media post.
Guo Jia, who works for the same company as Shen – Beifang Taxi – said in an interview that Shen considered quitting his job after his wife was diagnosed with the degenerative disease, but after seeing her contentment at riding beside him in the car, decided instead to take her to work with him every day.
Guo said Shen’s wife, whose name he did not provide, had difficulty remembering things and often was unable to recognise even her daughters or grandchildren.
Shen declined a request to be interviewed, but Guo said it was because he did not want to be in the public eye.
“Many people have contacted us offering to help the couple, but he has refused all of them,” he said. “He just wants to live a simple life with his wife and not be under the spotlight.”
After reading Cai’s social media post, many people appealed for Didi users to be sympathetic to Shen’s situation when posting their reviews.
“We have the right to refuse to take his taxi, but please don’t give him bad reviews,” one person wrote.
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Another expressed concern at being “stared at” by Shen’s wife but said the driver had made it clear from the start she would in the car with them.
“He called me right after taking my order, asking me if I minded him taking his wife,” the person said. “I realised she had some problem after I got in the car … she kept turning round and looking at me. To be frank, I was afraid of that stare, but the driver helped her turn forward and told her to look ahead.”
A third social media user said passengers in Shen’s cab should feel safer than ever.
“I think this is a really safe taxi, because it carries the driver’s most cherished one,” the person wrote.
Beifang Taxi said Shen had been employed by the company since 2007 and for many years had worked split shifts around the clock with another driver. But after his wife became sick, he applied to work alone so he could be with his wife at all times.