What drives us

Driving home last night, I was passed by a family of four enjoying a ride is an open-top Audi A5 Coupé. They were all smiles, proud of dad, it seemed. It got me thinking: surely that was the normal teenage reaction to a new luxury saloon.

My own excitement was short-lived, the day my father came home in his brand new BMW, boasting that it had an onboard computer, for it turned out not to be Kitt from Knight Rider. It was basically a calculator stuck to the dashboard that would display fuel consumption and range.

But it was a luxury marque, all the same. It had cream leather seats, heated in the front. It had a carphone in the centre console and a multi-disc CD interchanger in the boot. It had an automatic telescopic arial for the radio and a fin on the roof for the phone. It was the height of sophistication.

But, for me, it was the height of shame. I was embarrassed to be seen in it. I felt no pride at all. I suppose that was because the 1990s were a different time, and Hull was a different place. My father bought it at a time the UK was subsumed in a deep recession, when unemployment seemed to be on the rise. I felt our city was riven by a class divide, and I was on the wrong side of it.

That was brought home to me by a driving instructor who made sneering comments when he came to collect me from my home for my first lesson. He was appalled that we lived in a big house like that, where most people in the city lived in substandard housing. What he didn’t know was that I agreed with him.

He then went on to tell me about his daughter’s mixed-race relationship, thinking it would provoke my middle-class ire. He couldn’t imagine that my parents were just as accepting of such a relationship in the family. All he could imagine was that we were snooty racists, living a life cut off from reality out in the suburbs.

He couldn’t imagine, either, that my own grandparents had been working class, born in difficult circumstances, but raised to work hard to change their personal circumstances. They were simply the forerunners to today’s generation, striving hard to accumulate great fortunes.

Today is a different time. Everybody with any self-respect drives a BMW, Mercedes, Audi or Tesla. Just as it was for my father, it is an indicator of success, their great achievements on full display. It is a source of pride.

Perhaps there was something wrong with me in never getting that. Perhaps I was wrong in never pursuing that world. My first car was a Ford Fiesta, which served us well for years. Now it’s a Nissan Qashqai. I tell my son he can buy me a Tesla with his first paycheque if he works hard today.

I suppose we all just have to find what drives us. We all just have to find the road we wish to travel.

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