Who or what would you least like to share a car with?
How about people whose lives fill the pages of tacky magazines found in doctor’s surgeries, who inhabit something called ‘celebrity culture?’ Since much of this culture seems to have a lot in common with stuff grown in laboratory dishes, I suspect that spending time with the sequined, surgically enhanced and differently talented persons associated with it is something I could live without, even if I’m not always sure exactly who these people are.
However, I can think of three non-celebrities whose necks I could quite cheerfully have wrung after prolonged, in car exposure to them.
The first was a girl I’d been at school with, and was working in the same town as me. She asked if I’d drive her to work. I thought ‘why not? The company will be welcome, and it will save her some money.’
We both lived in West London, and our employers were in Berkshire, so every day I headed up the M4 in a tinny, clattery Citroen Dyne, which had a 435cc engine and was a noisy beast. This was in the 1980s, and my friend smoked. A lot.
She regularly left her fags at home, so we made frequent morning detours to newsagents for her to buy some more, which she would then chain smoke in the car as I coughed and contemplated being late for work as a result of their purchase.
‘Would you mind not smoking in here?’
She then decided that our motorway drives could be usefully spent applying her makeup in the Citroen’s tatty vanity mirror. This meant travelling very slowly in the inside lane to avoid eye pencil squiggles, much to the chagrin of the trucks in whose way we got.
Prettification out of the way she’d demonstrate a capacity for multi tasking by being able to smoke endless fags while reading copies of the Daily Mail, which for me meant seeing out of large areas of the car was problematic as a wall of tabloid got in the way. I’m not saying this ruined our friendship, but I haven’t seen her since 1997.
Then there was Mayonnaise Man. He was actually a local authority quantity surveyor and the partner of another friend. He’d kept on being made redundant, and when some freelance ad sales work came up on a magazine where I was working I put in a good word for him, and they gave him the job.
This meant he shared a car with me five days a week from Brentford to Hertford. It took about a week before I realised that I wanted to kill him. It wasn’t that he was nasty, but he was spectacularly, excruciatingly boring, and he never stopped talking, in a slow, foghorn voice, often about nothing at all. He also had a mirthless, nervous laugh. It sounded like an asthmatic donkey, and would appear at inopportune moments.
‘So we left the funeral at 2.45, not 2.15. Hur, hur, hur.’=
Why was he known as Mayonnaise Man? Well, he loved the stuff, would bang on about different brands, and their use in various flavours of sandwich. Believe me, in conversational terms you can make mayonnaise and tuna last a long time -in his case about half an hour.
He eventually went back to quantity surveying, which is the only reason why he’s still alive.
My final in car nemesis was called Rose, and she wasn’t even human. Rose was my mother’s African Grey parrot. I like animals, but Rose was an exception. She was a shrieking, feather-clad psychotic, filled with cuttlefish and hate, and equipped with a beak that could break knuckles.
As a child I once made a 200-mile journey in my dad’s Triumph Herald estate, with Rose sitting in her cage immediately behind me, with a blanket over her head ‘to keep her quiet.’
Of course it didn’t. She shrieked constantly for hours and hours. When we got home I had parrot tinnitus and murder in my heart.
They say you should never work with children and animals. My advice is if that animal is a parrot; don’t put them in a car together either.