Driven Round the Bend in Scotland

Tim Rayment and Ariel Leve set out to find out just what it is that makes men and women incompatible in a car. They toured Scotland in a Mercedes convertible. It wasn't good.

Ariel Leve's Side of it...

Imagine you're driving along a two-lane road in the middle of Scotland. You're American so it's your first time driving on the wrong side of the road with the wheel on the wrong side of the car. From the passenger seat comes your companion's voice. It is quiet, calm - albeit tense. "You're doing fine," He says. You relax.

Seconds later he begins to talk about "special awareness", whatever that may be.

"Are you nervous?" you ask. His response is a firm No.

Later, in a heated debate about who is at fault for what happened next, you will remind him of this response and he will admit that he was indeed nervous, but lied. You'll mention that had he said he was nervous, you would have slowed down. You will use this to point out that he is just as responsible as you are for what happened. He'll disagree.

Men believe they are better at driving. There have been surveys done and studies conducted that support this but you don't need to consult the internet for facts to back it up. It is a biological imperative: if a man is in the passenger seat with a woman at the wheel, unless they are blind, they are unhappy (and even if blind, I suspect they would still feel a sense of superiority).

Having been present for the results of a hearing test with Tim Rayment on a different assignment I know for a fact that his hearing is impaired. And often, after I've spoken, he will claim not to have heard me. Yet despite being unable to hear a voice less than 5ft away, he could miraculously detect the faintest sound of mud hitting the outside of the car, as he did on that road in Scotland. "You're too near the kerb," he warned. Only he repeated it several times with increasing intensity. "Don't hit the kerb! Don't hit the kerb!" I steered away but because there was also a speeding lorry coming directly towards us, I veered back. So as I saw it, I saved our lives. He didn't see it that way.

"Now you've done it! You've hit the kerb!" He shouted. "Don't hit it again! Don't . . . hit . . . it . . . yep you've done it again!" To better understand the terrorising volume of this angry outburst, consider this was a scream coming from a man who has not raised his voice in over a decade. Ten years of repressed rage liberated all at once in a harrowing mandate to not hit a kerb. With that kind of pressure, who wouldn't hit it? I did what anyone in that situation would do: burst into tears. Shaking, with tears dropping onto the steering wheel, I pulled over. At which point Tim immediately jumped out to survey the damage because, naturally, his first concern was the car.

Here's something I don't understand. Take the most good-natured, mild-mannered, soft-spoken man - put him in a car - and all of a sudden he's Saddam Hussein. The reality is that yes, I "kerbed the alloy" and lost a little bit of control of the car. But what would have happened if Tim had used a reasonable tone? He lost control of his temper, which scared me into hitting the kerb. No good has ever come from shouting at a woman while she's driving.

Surveying the damage was like a scene out of CSI: Scotland. It was rainy, damp, cold and grey and for several minutes Tim stood there, frowning, examining the side of the car before pointing to the mud like a forensic pathologist. "See that splatter?" he said. "Those tiny spots of mud indicate ditch."

After that one thing was clear. For the rest of the trip I'd be the one in the passenger seat. I'd driven all of five miles.

With Tim in the driver's seat, he began to confirm all the data I'd researched about male drivers. Such as a blatant disregard for speed limits and signposts. Also, that men are competitive; if there is another car on the road they have to overtake it.

Tim is an eminently qualified driver, but going 95mph in the pouring rain on a two-lane slippery road while overtaking a lorry isn't my idea of a relaxing drive.

The one time I was semi-relaxed was when he began talking about how "interesting" bends were. Hearing about minimal movement of the steering wheel and correct readings had a sedative effect. Of course, I couldn't fall asleep entirely because I was too nauseous from the curves.

I'd heard the west Highlands are known for their breathtaking scenery. I wouldn't know because most of the time I was there my hands were covering my eyes. Every time we would approach a bend in the road I would panic as I heard Tim accelerate. And therein lies the most significant gender-based difference in our attitudes towards driving. For me, a relaxing drive is low risk. I like to observe a body of water without envisioning dying in it.