This article was first published in The Sunday Times on July 23, 2000
Girls. Let’s be honest this morning, shall we? You think your husband is a useless driver. You think he’s too aggressive, that he goes too fast and that one day he’ll end up killing himself. So you want him to slow down and grow up.
But obviously you can’t just say that. To criticise a man’s driving is to take the first step on a road that ends up in the divorce courts. Tell him to slow down and you’ll be facing a future with nobody to turn to when you hear the sound of breaking glass at four in the morning.
This week, however, while I was trying to circumnavigate Cirencester and generally dispensing the finger to anyone that got in my way, the woman in my passenger seat, who shall remain anonymous because she’s the double-barrelled presenter on Top Gear, announced out of nowhere that you can tell whether a man will be a good lover by how he drives.
The effect was immediate. I slowed down to a rhythmic crawl and switched the radio to Smooth FM, using my tongue. And then I eased the seat into its fully reclined position and waved someone out of a side turning with a clearly audible “No. After you.”
“You should see me filling the engine with lubricant,” I said, to the background drizzle of Luther Vandross. “I never spill a drop and I always know which receptacle takes what.” Then I noticed the revs were rising and that, really, I should change gear. But since I was being scrutinised for signs of between-the-sheets abnormalities, the knob was a problem.
I mean, do you just grab it and shove it into the next slot as quickly as possible, while pulling a face? Or do you caress it into third, with a nonchalant lookm that says, “Don’t worry, i do this sort of thing all the time?”
2000: the year in cars
- Refinery blockades force the Labour government to freeze fuel duty for 18 months.
- Farmers begin protesting over concerns that the cost of a litre of petrol could rise to 87p.
- Kevin Storey wins an appeal against a £20 fine for eating a Kit Kat while driving his Ford Mondeo.
For miles I drove along smiling at everyone, while being super-careful with the controls, until I began to think a little bit about Mori. To work out who will win a general election, it questions thousands of people. So how does one girl manage to deduce that there’s a correlation between driving and sex? To get an accurate picture, she’d have to have the notchiest bedposts in Christendom, and I know what life’s like on Top Gear. There just isn’t the time.
Well, it turned out that she was also an instructor for one of those corporate entertainment “So you think you can drive” companies and sees hundreds of young men trying to wrestle their cars round the track. “If they saw at the wheel or jab at the brakes,” she said, “you just know they’ll be hopeless in the sack.” And obviously those that don’t jab away at the brakes and saw at the wheel go home at night with rather more than a cup.
Wow. I think this could well herald the beginning of perhaps the most successful road safety campaign yet. You see, young men have somehow got it into their heads that women find handbrake turns attractive when, in fact, they do not. Furthermore, doughnutting your Vauxhall Nova all the way down Laburnum Drive does not in any sense constitute meaningful foreplay.
I have read hundreds of surveys in women’s magazines about what women look for in a man and usually it’s a sense of humour or nice eyes. Not once have I ever heard a girl say that what she wants, more than anything, from a man is an ability to do power slides.
It needs to be explained to Gary that, when he’s doing 100mph round the bypass, with jungle noises bouncing the doors off their hinges, his girlfriend is not sitting there thinking, “Gosh. This man’s car control is exemplary and I hope that later he will perform similar miracles with me.”
She is thinking: “Bleedin’ Ada. We’re going to crash and I wish this plonker would slow down.” But of course she can’t say that because then she’d find herself at the side of the road, in the rain.
We need the people who did those amazing Australian “If you drink and drive, you’re a bloody idiot” adverts to pick up the baton on this one. And I think I have the tag line already. “A smooth ride: if you give her one, she might let you give her one.”