In the final throes of the fiasco at Heathrow airport, and its inability to cope with a few centimetres of snow prior to Christmas, I awaited the safe return of my children from London.
Their flight had been delayed by an hour, that was all, but due to a high temperature I was unable to drive and fetch them, so I sat at home, waiting. I sent a text message to my daughter asking if they were on their way. “In a taxi like none other!” came the somewhat cryptic reply. I wondered: was a year out of Hungary really sufficient to dim her memory of the driving antics of Budapest taxi drivers? I was otherwise unable to find an explanation for the puzzling text message.When the three of them finally arrived, we were given a detailed narrative of their return journey from Ferihegy airport in a car belonging to the newly-appointed official airport taxi company, Főtaxi:
John had sat alongside the driver, the two girls in the back. It was dark and cold, and the silence in the taxi prompted John to encourage the driver to switch the radio on. He flicked from one station to the next, but the choice seemed to be politics or techno. A sideways glance at his passenger confirmed that this was not what he had been hoping for.
“Do you like singing?” ventured the chauffeur.
“Well….she does,” replied John, indicating his girlfriend in the back seat.
Needing no further encouragement, the driver pressed a button, at which a small screen popped up between him and John. Simultaneously, the two small screens in the back of the headrests lit up for the girls seated behind. Then, casually holding the steering wheel with one hand, he produced an IPod with his other, starting a rapid search through its library. Having found what he was looking for, he pressed PLAY and the music started – Maria Carey’s All I Want for Christmas is You; strangely, however, her voice was noticeable only by its absence.
It was at this juncture that, alongside adjusting his Satnav with one hand and holding the steering wheel with his other, he produced a microphone from his lap and began to sing along to the lyrics, reading them from the small screen, all the while driving at speed towards the city. And then, moments later, he produced a second mic and handed it over to the girls behind him.
John suddenly became aware of flashing blue and red lights behind them – he waited for the inevitable: that their car would be overtaken by a police vehicle which had obviously observed the antics of a driver multi-tasking to an unprecedented degree, even for Hungary. But no. Their chauffeur had merely switched on the rear disco lights to add to their total Karaoke Taxi Experience.