There are a few general rules of etiquette when it comes to borrowing something from someone; those usually centre around not damaging or breaking the item, and returning it in a timely manner again in the same state it was given. These rules can be applied to many objects: pens, articles of clothing, cell phones (for a quick call), cooking utensils, and cars. Yes, cars.
We’ve all borrowed a car at one point or another in our lives, even if you don’t do what I do. And the Etiquette of Borrowed Items applies tenfold when it comes to a big-ticket item like a car (much harder to replace than a pen should something go wrong).
I’ve been “borrowing” cars for just over 10 years now. Every Monday I change my car for something new. From Nissan Micras to Bentley Continentals, the range of cars and trucks varies greatly in size, power, and price. It was intimidating at first, but I’m used to it now.
There are a good number of us who do what I do, drive new cars every week and write about them. You hear all about the track days and glorious road trips, see the stunning photoshoots and hear us rant and rave about CVTs and cupholders that are too small.
What you’ll rarely hear or read about though is when things go wrong, terribly wrong. Because, after all, we are all just human, and humans err. Sometimes those errs are quite significant and damaging, and not just to an object but to pride and (though it’s rare) even a career.
By now I trust you’ve all read and enjoyed my piece on the Jaguar F-Type SVR that I traverse the English countryside with, and you are at this point wondering how it is that I broke (according to the title of this article) such a beautiful beast.
Fear not; the SVR was not the Jaguar I broke. No, see, one Jaguar wasn’t enough for me when I landed across the pond that morning…
Paul waited patiently for me in arrivals while I took an astronomically long time to clear customs and collect my bags. I felt terrible for making him wait so long, but he was more concerned with me having just had such a long flight and immediately offered we grab a coffee or sit for a moment so I could rest. I just wanted to get to my F-Type, so on we went.
When I’d requested the vehicle a few months earlier, I’d specifically requested an F-Type (any model), and cheekily suggested the SVR knowing I’d get a resounding “NO” in response to the top-tier model, but at least hoping for a V6.
My wish was granted and I was told I would be picking up a V6 F-Type S with an auto transmission and the all-important sport exhaust feature added on. Perfection. I was ecstatic and couldn’t wait to meet my kitty in the UK.
At Heathrow, Paul gave me the walk-around, pointing out a few key features and reminding me that this Jaguar was not a diesel-drinker (and even if I tried, the hole was too small to fit a diesel pump, so good luck with that). He also commended me on my light packing (carry-on only!) since the already small trunk was eaten up entirely by a full-size spare tire (this is important information, don’t forget this tidbit).
Paul finally bid me adieu and went on his merry way to leave me to my own devices behind the wheel of the F-Type V6.
I had grand plans that morning. I’d landed so early (7:30am), and was only staying about an hour and a half away from London; I decided it would be a good day to explore. I wanted to avoid the motorways and explore sleepy English villages and eventually make my way to Highclere Castle to finally visit the estate I’d been watching for so many months on TV thanks to my obsession with Downton Abbey. So, I set up the Jaguar’s navigation system to take me to Highclere with a stop first in Reading so I could pick up a local SIM for my phone and not get reamed with data-roaming charges (smart traveller right here).
Sitting behind the wheel on the right-hand side of the car is absurd. It throws off everything you though you knew about driving and driving position and, well, everything. From remembering to put my seatbelt on from the right not the left to not being able to rest my left knee against the door panel (because the door’s not on that side), little things like that just completely threw me off.
Then I had to leave the car park. On the right side of the road, which is the wrong one for me. I thought at that point I needed a coffee still, but the shear panic of not wanting to mess it up or run headlong into oncoming traffic kept me wide awake leaving the underground lot.
Leaving London my strategy was pretty simply: Follow the car in front. Whatever that car did, I did. Especially when turning at a junction. Remembering that a left-hand turn is no longer long takes a few attempts to remember (much to other motorists shock and panic).
Open motorways were a breeze, although remembering that the far right-hand lane is the fast lane (not the left like we’re used to) also takes some coaxing to remember. I admit to getting annoyed as cars came up dangerously close to the rear of my Jag while in that lane as I thought, “Jack*ss, just go around me! I’m not even in the fa- Oh, wait, yes I am.” Oops.
UK SIM card installed, motorways officially “avoided” on my navigation app, coffee in cup holder (albeit on the “wrong” side) and BBC2 on the radio for decent jams, and I was off.
I’d been driving in the country for roughly an hour and a bit at that point.
From Reading, the navigation had me go through another village called Bracknell to keep me off the M25. While driving through Bracknell, I happened upon some construction. What used to be a two-lane road was reduced to one with cones to my right and the curb on the left.
Now, I know you all read my first Jaguar article so you know my mantra of “Don’t hit the curb! Don’t hit the curb! Don’t hit the curb!” This was extremely important in this situation as I was petrified to curb the Jaguar, and so was very focused on the cones and staying as close to them as possible. This caused me to, admittedly, not pay that much attention to things that may or may not have been strewn in the road in the construction site.
Then it happened.
My front passenger tire was pierced by god knows what. The bang was enough to make me almost wet myself (don’t worry, I didn’t break and pee in the Jaguar, but I came damn close), and made me lose control of the F-Type, which then sent me into the curb I’d been so desperately trying to avoid. Thankfully I wasn’t travelling much faster than 25mph.
Immediately, the Jaguar’s tire pressure system lit up, and I knew something had gone terribly, terribly wrong.
Little side note here: My full-time gig involves working for a wheel and tire company. I deal with vehicle wheels and tires on a daily basis. I put cars on a lift, remove tires, and 3D map brakes, hubs and calipers. I also measure wheels themselves and know a great deal about the rubber that wraps around them.
My first thought immediately after, “Oh dear gawd I’ve broken the Jaguar” was “But it’s just a flat and I have a full-size spare. You’ve got this Miranda. Man up and change your own tire, you do it for a living, after all.”
Full womanpower and all that jazz.
So, I found a quiet street somewhere random in Bracknell across from a pre-k elementary school and pulled over to change my own tire. However, as soon as I proudly stepped around to the passenger side, ready to tackle jacking the car and getting the busted wheel off, my heart sank.
Sitting before me was not one, but two completely flat tires. The F-Type V6 was sitting on a quiet side street on its rims. I was gutted, angry, anxious, kind of really tired after only sleeping 30 min on the overnight flight, hungry, panicked, sad, slightly thrilled at the potential story that could come of this, and terrified for my career all at once. It was exhausting just running through that gambit of emotions in such a short period of time, like 30 seconds.
Making that phone call to a manufacturer that you’ve essentially broken the car they’ve so kindly agreed to lend you for a short period of time under the assumption that you will bring it back in the same condition you took it in (Etiquette of Borrowed Items!), is a horrendous and terrible thing to have to do.
Luckily, this was only the third such call I’ve ever had to make in my 10-year career. And let me tell you, it does not get easier. At all.
“Um, yeah, hi this is Miranda Lightstone the Canadian journalist who’s currently driving your F-Type V6. Um, I’m just calling to let you know I, um, seem to have hit something in a construction site and have punctured both passenger-side tires. I’m really, really sorry and was planning on changing the tire myself, but it seems I only have 1 spare, and I kind of need 2. I am so, so sorry. Seriously. So sorry,” went the message I left the amazingly kind and helpful contact at Jaguar. I then shakily left her my new UK mobile number (which I had to read off the back of the SIM-card pack because there was no way I was memorizing an 11-digit number, especially not in that situation).
Mere minutes later and what would be an almost 6-hour ordeal started as Lindsey and I went back-and-forth on the phone while I sat on the sleepy street in Bracknell trying not to look like too much of a creeper sitting in front of the children’s school. As Jaguar tried to source me new tires to replace the oh-so flat ones, it became apparent that wasn’t going to happen. So, the next solution was: flatbed the F-Type back to its home base in Coventry.
It didn’t even cross my mind to ask for another vehicle from them. I’d just broken the first one they’d given me. And not just any model, an F-Type. An expensive, luxurious model that not everyone has the pleasure of driving.
As a mother, I know how the rules go: I was given a chance, I blew it. Therefore, privileges revoked. Thankfully, I had my own contingency plan, and would not be left without a car for the duration of my stay there, and truthfully my backup options weren’t too shabby…
“OK Miranda, so our roadside team is on the way with the flatbed and your backup vehicle will be there, too. Please don’t worry so much, these things happen.”
My backup vehicle? I was shocked, and so very, very astonished I’d even been offered one. I didn’t pry as to what it was and assumed I’d be given something strapping and capable (read: Land Rover Discovery) just in case I chose to head through another construction zone. This was not the best parental lesson Jaguar was teaching me at the moment. I’d done a bad thing, a very bad thing, and I was being given another chance despite the severity of the badness — and I’d soon discover not only was I being given another chance, but very nearly a reward for the mishap.
Whatever I’d hit around 10am that morning (and it literally punctured an inch-long hole in my front tire, large enough to fit my fingers in), had me sitting on that street in Bracknell till about 3:00pm that afternoon until one of the two amazingly kind and incredible roadside assistant men offered to drive me to a local pub to wait for my backup vehicle.
“We’d never leave a single female on her own on the street, love. It’s part of our mandate, and well, we just wouldn’t do it as decent human beings, now would we?” John stated matter-of-factly.
After settling in at the pub around the corner from the street where we’d managed to winch the F-Type onto the flatbed as it was much too low to drive on normally, especially with the deflated front tire, I awaited my backup vehicle, ordering a coffee to settle my nerves (ha ha) and prepare myself for the remainder of my drive ahead to get to where I’d be staying (Highclere was very much out of the question at this point).
Neil, bless him, arrived in a flurry apologizing for keeping me waiting so long and hoping I was OK after my ordeal that day. He was sorry that I had broken his car. Read that again. I’ve been told it’s a very British thing to apologize for everything, but this seemed a bit too much. Even the barkeep refused to let me pay for my coffee, perhaps after seeing the look on my face as I sat there, white-knuckled, sipping it slowly. In a pub. Drinking coffee. In a pub. In England.
After gathering my things, we stepped out into the parking lot and what I saw nearly made me stop dead in my tracks. Since you’re all well aware of what my backup vehicle was, there’s really no climax here. The SVR sat in all its glory, waiting for Neil and I to head off to the local train station where I’d drop him then be off on my way to West Sussex.
The drive from Bracknell to West Sussex was nothing short of petrifying. For the first time since I’d started my driving career I felt like I had no idea what I was doing. At all. I was terrified. Terrified of other drivers, terrified of the curbs, terrified of holes in the ground of turning at junctions of taking roundabouts appropriately, and really of breaking ANOTHER Jaguar.
It may have been the most stressful 2 hours of my life. And I’ve birthed a child.
Messing up roundabouts became the norm — I could never get the exit right and always either went too far or took the one just before I was supposed to. So, the navigation would take me on some painfully tight two-way lane where any oncoming traffic had to deal with me quite literally stopping (likely very much in the middle of the road to avoid any possibility of me hitting the tires/wheels on the curb) so they could make their way around me.
You know that saying, “Zero f**ks given”? That was me that afternoon as I implored those around me to just deal with my inadequate driving skills and let me be, please.
I’d severely punctured the front tire in the F-Type V6 enough to make me lose control, which sent me into the curb, which caused the flat in the rear tire. The front rim was unharmed as I’d not hit the curb with that one, but the rear rim was pretty beat up. Just writing all that makes me cringe. I hate that I hurt the F-Type as badly as I did. And yet, Jaguar was so very cool and calm about it. Here I’d broken their £62,000 vehicle, and they were telling me to stop worrying and that it was OK. And further more, they then replaced that car with one that cost nearly two times as much and is decidedly rather rare, and without me even asking for another vehicle (because at that point I didn’t dare!).
I won’t soon forget the kindness they showed me that morning, all of them. From Lindsey in the Coventry offices to John and Colin (roadside assistant guys), to Neil and the barkeep who gave me my coffee for free. Truly, as horrible as the incident was, they all made it more than bearable and survivable, and they treated me a helluva lot better than I think I deserved after doing what I did.
I made it to Faygate, West Sussex that night. It took me considerably longer than it should have, but I made it. Parking the car in front of the house I was to “live” in for the 5 days to follow gave me a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. I’d managed not to break a second Jaguar. And I was now driving the most powerful version of the model I requested. I had had plans to drive to my family’s for dinner that night in Henley-on-Thames (about an hour and a bit away), but I just couldn’t bring my shaky hands to grip the steering wheel again that evening. Instead they opened a bottle of wine, and later gripped a pint at the local around the corner.