Can you believe it? The University of Nevada, Las Vegas, has found that drivers of expensive cars are less likely to stop at pedestrian crossings. I’m sorry, but there’s just no excuse for that. Not even if their slot machine hasn’t paid out and they have to dash home for more coins.
For each $1,000 of a car’s value, the researchers claim, the likelihood of its driver giving way to a pedestrian diminishes by 3%. Which is horrifying. If my maths is right, a $43,000 car will not only never stop at a crossing, but a third of the time it’ll turn back and drive over it again.
The conclusion seems obvious. Rich people are odious, selfish narcissists with son-in-laws who are panel beaters. But that seems so unlikely, particularly the first part, that I’ve been moved to test this conclusion with my own research.
It wasn’t easy, because I don’t know any rich people. Not the sort of people who bathe daily in the rivers of cash that come from, say, owning casinos, or being very good at playing the games inside them, or giving permission for them to be built.
But from time to time, I do bump into people who are quite well-off, and I bumped into a few on a road trip last week. (Not at pedestrian crossings, fortunately.)
Is there anything more life-affirming than the kindness of strangers, particularly when it includes open-hearted conversation and/or perfectly cellared wine?
My first benefactors were rellies of an old friend of my partner, and on hearing we were passing through their town, insisted on putting us up at their place, cooking dinner for us, and easing the cork out of an exquisite 1998 Bowen Estate Cabernet.
As if that generosity wasn’t enough, the next morning as we departed they pressed into our grateful hands a bottle of 2000 Penfolds Bin 28. They both drive the sort of cars that have people diving for cover in Nevada, but I’d be more than comfortable crossing the road as they approached, even at speed, even if I couldn’t see them because I had the bottle of Kalimna to my lips.
I’d have happily wound up my research project at that point, but no, a few days later, the generosity kept on coming. We were staying with friends, (BMW, kindness personified), and they invited their neighbour, whom we’d never met, over for dinner.
He turned out to be a delightful bloke with a fascinating life and a continuing love affair with progressive economic theory. Even more delightfully, he arrived carrying a magnum of 2012 Willi Schaefer Graacher Domprobst Riesling Auslese, and a magnum of 2008 Remoissenet Père et Fils Puligny-Montrachet Premier Cru Les Perrieres.
I’m not sure what car he drives, but his humanist intellect is Rolls-Royce tuned, and his generosity is Maybach quality, and needless to say, I’d be very relaxed helping my grandmothers – if I had any left – onto his local pedestrian crossing at any hour of the day or night.
That evening, though, we just wanted to hug him and take him to Nevada.