Thursday, September 13, 2007

French Particularities No. 15: Les Taxis


Headlights
Originally uploaded by number8838.


This morning I was up at 4.45 a.m. in order to catch an early flight at Orly Aeroport. The taxi arrived at 5.30 a.m. and somehow I still hadn't managed to summon the energy to shave, despite having got to bed at 10 p.m. the night before. I was too busy eating crunchy muesli and watching John and Nippy launch their Indian restaurant in the South of France using an African elephant they'd rented for publicity purposes. Such is the fare on BBC Prime at 5.10 a.m. on a Thursday morning.

The taxi was not the usual small minibus, but a sleek midnight blue Peugeot of executive saloon proportions. The driver looked around 40 years old, in all but his hair style which cascaded in thick wavy locks over the shoulder and a good way down his back. Orly Aeroport? he asked, and off we went, not another word exchanged throughout the journey.

The car accelerated quietly and efficiently into the dark morning streets and I found myself pinned to the leather seat by a rapidly accumulating G-force. The interior of the car was suffused with a spooky fluorescence from the dashboard dials while from the distributed speakers came an intimidating screech of warped guitars and paranoid human voices. The digital readout on the dash indicated each band and the title of their track. For unknown reason, at the end of each number, spontaneous appreciation broke out, and I found myself wondering why heavy metal fans have a stronger tendance to whistle than to clap.

Today was the 13th of September and as we accelerated down a ramp on to the A13, our bumper expertly positioned three feet behind the bumper of the car in front, the track changed on the MP3 player and I read the name of the band: 'Citizen', and the title of the track: 'Erased'. Like this:

Citizen
ERASED

We surged past the little Citroen that had been delaying us for the previous two seconds and shot like a steel ball-bearing from a Black Window catapult towards Orly Aeroport. Suddenly, I noticed a wierd tapping noise. It seemed to be part of the music in the car, but was somehow of a different timbre. After listening for a minute or so, I realised it was the driver who, far more intent on the music than could be healthy, was playing various bits of the fascia around his seating position with his fingers and thumbs, rapidly tapping out not merely the same beat as the drummer in the band, but a contra puncto which clearly took some concentration. All this while swerving inwards to overtake another 'slow' driver using the fast lane for unnecessary purposes.

We arrived at Orly via a route I had never taken before that proved somewhat more expensive than normal but which had a number of long and exciting bends that kept me jammed to the door of the car for several long seconds at a time. When I got out of the car, I almost forgot my change, so excited with the experience was I...

6 comments:

Stuart Mudie said...

Ah, yes. It's not the first time I've climbed out of a French taxi, especially one coming in from the airport at Roissy, and muttered a secular prayer of gratitude for the fact that I was still alive.

Once, my wife made the foolish mistake of asking a taxi driver to drive more slowly. NOT a good idea!

Jonathan Wonham said...

Hello Stuart

I suppose taxi driver logic runs along the lines of: the faster I drive, the more pick ups I can take, the more money I make. Which is great in theory, until you see the hundreds of taxis waiting around at CDG and Orly airports...

And yet the queue for Paris taxis at Orly around 7pm still stretches a hundred yards...

Fortunately for me, Orly has a special queue for 'banlieu' which is generally only about two people long.

Bee said...

Why is it that taxi drivers never play the right kind of music? Maybe Bob Dylan or Tom Waites (the right kind for me) is not good driving music...

Stuart Mudie said...

How about Tom Waits AS your taxi driver? (See the Jim Jarmusch movie Night on Earth for details!)

Jonathan Wonham said...

Bee - it's funny because most taxis I've been in don't have music playing. Quite a lot are listening to RTL Sport radio. I like Tom Waits as well but perhaps not at 5.30 in the morning. I'm thinking, for example, of his recent track: 'Don't go into that Barn'. For sunny motoring melodies I prefer Kirsty MacColl.

Stuart - Yes, I can imagine that. Probably it would be a one way trip.

Bee said...

Ha Ha to both of you! I think Tom Waites would be OK at 5.30 in the morning if you hadn't been to bed from the night before. I am not a morning person so any music when I'm not awake yet is a problem.