Often when I ask people how they're doing, they tell me, "I can't complain." To which I reply, "Of course you can, you lazy bastard. You're just not trying hard enough." Even when all the loved ones are safe and sound, it doesn't take much imagination to find something to complain about, some niggling annoyance, hassle, nuisance, impending bummer, or cosmic sadness to get worked up over. It's the instinct of people -- a subset of the animal kingdom who share the fight or flight reflex -- to cast one's gaze around while groping to figure out what thing is wrong, be it large or minute, even when seeming facts are trying to mislead you into thinking all's well. And then, assuming you're from the East Coast, you must share your concern with the world. Call it the fight, flight, or kvetch reflex.
Not that I don't appreciate the courtesy of people sparing me their worries. I am gladdened not to hear other folks complaining. For one thing, it interrupts my own bitching.
Now, I'm an optimist--the glass is one-eighth full, of that I am sure. Yet even I have to admit that expressions of self-pity grow tedious in my line of work, which most people don't recognize as a labor-intensive, soul-sucking exercise, probably on account of the fact that when compared to a lot of other things you might find yourself stuck doing, it's not so bad. So no wonder exasperated sighs cascade at these moments, such as when I found myself whining a few weeks back that I had to leave a pavement-melting New York heat wave for a little jaunt to merry olde England, as the guest of Jaguar Land Rover. First, they'd fly me business class to Heathrow, then put me up in some fancy hotel in London for the advance launch party at Kensington Palace in honor of next year's Range Rover Evoque soft-roader. Then would follow a few nights at a Four Seasons in Hampshire for easy access to the Goodwood Festival of Speed, where I'd learn the night before Sunday's hill-climb that I had the opportunity to drive a 1954 Jaguar D-type Le Mans racer from the company's collection. Oh, poor me.
Did I mention that before Goodwood I'd get the chance to join old friend Don Rose for a spin in his Aston Martin DB5 to Cobham, Surrey, and the workshops of Aston Martin guru R. S. Williams, where I'd be offered a chance to pilot the original James Bond DB5 from the films Goldfinger and Thunderball (not one of the publicity doubles I'd driven through Central Park for this magazine in 2005)? The founder of his own record company in a previous life, Rose now works for RM Auctions, in which capacity he persuaded Jerry Lee, a Philadelphia radio magnate and the Aston's owner of forty-one years, to put what is arguably the world's most famous car up for auction, with proceeds to benefit an educational charity. RM's low estimate for the car, to be offered in London in October, is $5 million. Along with the D-type run, wheel time in the Bond DB5 meant that I'd been entrusted with something approaching $10 million worth of two of my favorite cars of all time, as well as banking more quality seat time in the new Jaguar XJ. It's a great car, my only complaint being that we aren't getting the excellent diesel version here in America.
Other complaints? Well, the Bond car, still in the process of being recommissioned, drove -- despite its low miles and its lovely original interior -- like a car that had been sitting in someone's living room for forty-one years (which it had). The machine guns don't fire real bullets. And it doesn't have air-conditioning. As for the D-type, its seat wasn't set up for my modest height, so I had to strain to reach the pedals. Seeing a keen sportsman stuff his Birdcage Maserati into a hay bale the previous day, along with the lack of a seatbelt and my utter unfamiliarity with the hill-climb route, led me to drive the D-type as if I were transporting human organs to an operating theater rather than keeping pace with Jackie Stewart, Stirling Moss, and some of the other accomplished wheelmen who'd pound the pavement that weekend like they meant it. Which reminds me, why can't I drive better? Sorry. There I go complaining again.
Written by Jamie Kitman Illustration by Tim Marrs