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
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
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.