Everyone who lives in the UAE has a story about taxis. From mad cap driving to erratic maneuvers, Abu Dhabi’s cabbies are sometimes a law unto themselves. But my story isn’t about our drivers: I want to tell you about the time I shared a journey with a very special stranger.
He wasn’t royalty or a movie star: this passenger was in fact, a mouse.
With bleary eyes one Tuesday morning, I jumped in a taxi from my apartment on Al Reem Island and headed down the road towards Dubai, happily chatting to the driver about cricket (of course) and the traffic in our nation’s capital now the kids are back at school (what else).
But then, a flash of movement caught my eye. Looking down, I saw what I thought was the cabbie’s hand moving. At first I assumed he was going for his mobile phone, or to yank his handbrake in a bid to do a James Bond-style handbrake turn on the Sheikh Zayed Road. Instead, I noticed something small, something white and something furry scampering along my seat, just to the left of my leg.
Now I’m not the kind of man who is scared of spiders or rodents. But a squeaky mouse just isn’t what you expect to see on a Tuesday morning while hurtling down the E11. With a cry of ‘goodness me!’ I alerted the cabbie to our stowaway.
I assumed this news would see us pull over and we’d rescue the little fella and leave him on the side of the road. Instead, my cabbie kept driving and, looking extremely cross and flustered, told me how the rodent got there. Two days earlier, a man with a box full of them had got in his taxi. The mice were dinner for his pet snake.
This revelation made me want to root for the mouse. He was basically Steve McQueen in The Great Escape, making a desperate bid for freedom. This old Toyota was his motorbike.
My cabbie though wasn’t happy.
He told me a mouse was bad for business and that he was going to call the police. Now I know there isn’t a lot of crime in Abu Dhabi, but surely the cops have better things to do than open a case on a fugitive mammal. Then he pointed out that if a member of the fairer sex was in the car, it could have been a different story. I quickly imagined one of the TOAD ladies in the motor and not me. You’d have heard the screams as far as Qatar.
Then I started worrying about the mouse. We all know how hard it is to find your way around Dubai: miss your turning and you can drive for miles. He’d be lost without Abu Dhabi’s street numbers and grid system. And has he got enough dirhams to pay for all those tolls? Mind you, he’s got loads more restaurants and nightclubs to visit.
So every cloud and all that.
I left my cabbie in Dubai, with the mouse cowering underneath the passenger seat glove compartment. I’m hoping he made it out alive and is making a go of things in his new home. If you see him, say hello from me. You’ll easily spot him. He’ll be the one moaning about all the traffic on Emirates Road.
Andy Sherwood is our editor. He’s easy to recognise: he’s the one whistling The Great Escape theme tune.