Clarkson on: taste
Every November, I am bundled into the back of a Mercedes and driven around London so that I can spend a day plugging my Christmas DVD.
In some ways, it's quite good fun because all day you bump into lots of famous people running around London in other big Mercs plugging their DVDs, fitness videos, films, books or comedy tours.
Last year, I trailed around in the wake of Ian Hislop as he desperately tried to flog the Private Eye annual. This year, I met John Barrowman coming out of Steve Wright's studio, and when I'd finished, Lord Linley was queuing to go in. It was like a dentist's waiting room for the desperate.
On Jonathan Ross, I met the charming boys from Muse who were flogging their new record (or whatever you call it these days) and Laurence Fishburne who was flogging CSI, and who speaks much faster in real life than he did in The Matrix. Last year, on Jonathan Ross, I met Patrick Swayze. Who is now dead.
Whom you meet may vary from year to year but the day itself never does. You start with Chris Moyles in the morning. You chat for a bit about this and that. Then you chat about your DVD. Then you chat a bit more to make it look like you weren't only there to sell your soul. And then you get back in the Merc for a trip to see Phillip Schofield where you chat for a bit, then you chat about your DVD, then you chat about something else and then it's back in the car for your appointment with Nick Ferrari on LBC, where you have to remember what you said in the previous chats so, while chatting, you don't repeat yourself. There's a lot of chatting and a lot of remembering.
Then you have lunch with the PR for the DVD/book/fitness video, and then in the afternoon, there's more chatting. Until eventually you wind up at Five Live for a chat with Simon Mayo.
Simon, by the time you read this, will have emigrated from Five Live to the afternoon show on Radio Two, which is great for him but a disaster for me, and Ian Hislop and David Linley. Because Simon was usually the last port of call and it was always a bit different to the other chats.
Mostly, this is because Simon had usually bothered to watch/read the dvd/fitness video/book and therefore had slightly more relevant questions. This year was no exception. What he asked is this: "Would you not be friends with someone if they drove a car you didn't like?"
Well, I had a quick scan through my address book and with the exception of James May, who drives a Porsche Boxster, all my friends do drive cars that I like. Mainly though, this has something to do with the fact that just about all my friends shoot and therefore drive Range Rovers.
Would I ditch them as friends if they bought a Vauxhall or a Proton? Of course not. Over the years, various friends have done some unspeakable things, but I try to be loyal - I try to remember that the bond of friendship is an important thing. So the idea that I would Tippex someone from my address book because they bought a car I don't like is absurd.
"If someone has a Range Rover, they’ve turned their noses up at an X5 or Q7, which means their brains are wired the same as mine"
And yet... since the interview, I keep asking myself why is it that none of my friends drives a Peugeot? Or a Rover? Or a Kia? And don't think this is a wealth thing. I don't know anyone with a Porsche Cayenne or a Bentley Continental either.
Could it be then that we do, subconsciously, hook up with people that have similar motoring tastes to our own?
The best way to answer this is to not talk about cars. As I said to Simon Mayo, I could not be friends with someone who does not like the film Local Hero. Not liking this completely faultless movie shows that you are a bore with no heart, and if you are a bore with no heart, we could not possibly be friends.
It's the same story with Monty Python. I don't mind if you don't find it funny now, but if you never found it funny then I'm sorry, you almost certainly live in a house where visitors are asked to remove their shoes when entering. Surrey Rules, I call it. And I've no time for people like that either.
You can be friends with someone who thinks differently, but it usually goes wrong in the end. That's why most of my friends have no time for global warming, and think Gordon Brown is an idiot. It should also be noted that the vast majority smoke.
Conversely, none of my friends have children called Chardonnay. None live in Cheshire. And few go on holiday to Florida.
That said, many don't drink, but this is almost always because they did far too much of that when they were younger and have livers like pebbles as a result.
It's often said that people who live in the countryside are forced to get on with their neighbours because the choice is so limited. But this isn't necessarily so. The reason I get on with my neighbours is that, like me, at some point they moved to this neck of the woods. That means we must have something in common.
And that gets us back to cars. If someone has a Range Rover, they must have turned their noses up at the BMW X5 and the Audi Q7 and that gormless-looking Porsche, which means their brains are wired up the same way as mine.
If someone has a BMW, the chances are they work in IT, and this is not something I find interesting. Likewise, because I don't work in construction, few of my friends drive Audis. Jags, yes. But Audis? No. Jags are for people who like and live off the land.
We needed an Aston Martin DBS for filming the other day, and because Aston couldn't help - all their demonstrators were out - we had to rent one from a supercar drivers' club. And I couldn't help noticing its metal gearknob was scratched to hell. This is because people who join supercar clubs wear jewellery. And that's why none of my friends is a member of any such thing.
I shall go on. Because none of my friends is in their eighties, I don't know anyone with a Peugeot. Because none is an idiot, they don't have Renaults. Because they don't like murdering, they don't have Land Rover Discoverys and because they aren't geography teachers or football referees, they don't have Hyundais.
Again, with the exception of May and Hammond, very few of my friends have a motorbike. Although this might have something to do with the fact that most of my friends are pushing 50 as well, which means they've either grown out of bikes, or been killed by one long ago.
Two of my friends do have Mitsubishi Evos, and both of them are very pretty girls, which says something.
And what it says is this. It's very hard to make proper friends as you become older. There's a lot of bottom-sniffing and going round to one another's houses for fact-finding get-to-know-you suppers. It's all very time-consuming and quite dangerous.
Because often you find out that you don't like them at precisely the same moment they decide to be your best buddy. It's hard to shake someone off at this stage, and remain tactful.
So I have a plan. If you are looking for new friends, or even a new spouse, save yourself a lot of time and effort. Simply look at what they drive. If you like their wheels, there's a good chance you'll like the driver too. If you don't, you almost certainly won't.
Want to comment on this?
I'm always inclined to make friends with people who are very much nót like me, only to discover later on that I'm not actually interested in them at all. Any conversation always ends in a dead end street, where you can't agree on the basics. But so many people these days don't have a car at all, that you can't limit yourself to 'those with cars that I like', or those that at least smoke and drink and don't do sports. There'll be none left! I'm not ready to turn hermit quite yet.
Takk - if a person doesn't have a car you could ask something like - "what car would you drive if you had one?" and if the answer is "Prius" you just turn 180° and walk away to never see this person again. I absolutely agree with Jezza.
I drive a Chrysler Sebring. I have no friends.
Here in the Silicon Valley of Northern California we have lots of "Prius" drivers, since this is the center of the ECO Nazi Regime. Just like the Germans but when they shoot you on the highway, they smile. So we try and stay away from them as much as possible. I drive a 1995 Mitsubishi Montero so I am considered "not as bad" as someone who drives a full size Chevy Suburban but a horrible person because I'm not driving a "Smart Car". I find making friends over cocktails and talking about cars you wish you had is easier.
I, like most of my friends, drive an old beater. The majority of our conversations are not what car we drive, but what creative and interesting things have we done to our cars to keep them running for another week. The range of topics covers honest-to-goodness wrench turning to the best use of duct tape. This article made me realize that I am more interested in people who can fix thier cars than those who buy them from the showroom. They often, like thier cars, have no personality.