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Road test

My friend was impatient to drive the car that she backed out of the slot and started driving ahead of everyone else.

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I don’t drive a car; I just ride one. So, when I got invitations to test drive vehicles when I was still working for a travel magazine, I always passed on the opportunity to my staff.

The cars and SUV are filled with gas to the brim, and you can literally take them anywhere for a certain number of days. That’s why when we have out-of-town coverages, we timed them with a test-drive invitation.

However, there was one time when I decided not to pass up on the opportunity. It wasn’t an ordinary vehicle — although all the cars offered to us were top-notch ones — so, I readily said yes, and dealt with the problem of finding a driver slash traveling companion later on.

So, what was it that made me say yes?

It was a MINI, also known as a Mini Cooper.

For many, this vehicle epitomizes what is considered to be British design and craftsmanship. And its diminutive design has inspired so many imitators.

That forms part of the MINI’s appeal. The experience of riding in one, I guess, was my only motivation to volunteer for the task. And surprisingly, it wasn’t a tight fit at all. It may look like a small car, but it was quite spacious inside — there was enough room to stretch my legs and fit all the stuff that I brought along.

To test drive it, we were booked with an overnight stay at Pico de Loro in Nasugbu, Batangas. In a way, we were just actually delivering the cars to the resort — we were a group of 12 journalists and bloggers — where they were supposed to be showcased. While we were enjoying ourselves at the beach and exploring the resort, other people were test-driving the cars.

I contacted a number of friends who might be interested to join me for the weekend. The invitation was so sudden, and everybody had already made plans. I was lucky that a dear friend said yes, because — in her own words — “When will I ever get to drive a MINI?” Of course, her AUV cannot possibly compare.

So, there we were one Saturday morning at the meeting place near Roxas Boulevard. Over cups of coffee and cookies at a coffee place, we espied the cars all lined up in a row at the parking lot.
“Is that what I’m driving?” she said, as her eyes twinkled with delight.

Eventually the organizer motioned to all of us to move to the parking lot and board our cars.

We were assigned to the last car, a maroon one with a black and white stripe in the center that gave it a sports car’s look. We hurried inside and simply marveled at the comfy interiors.

Someone motioned that we could start moving anytime we wanted. We just had to follow the map that was provided to us.

I handed over the keychain to my “driver,” and she looked at me quizzically.

“Where’s the key?”

That fat keychain had nothing on it by way of a key.

So, I went down the car, hurried to an organizer and showed her the keychain. No key, I showed her.

She merely smiled and went with me to the car.

“It works this way,” she said.

And then she pushed the fat part of the keychain into a slot in the dashboard.

She motioned to my friend that she can now switch it on.

And that car purred to life.

We both gave out a nervous laugh.

My friend looked at the girl, and exclaimed, “Now you know I’ve never driven a MINI in my life.”

We were at the end of the line, and we waited for all the other cars to move.

My friend was impatient to drive the car that she backed out of the slot and started driving ahead of everyone else.

Along the way, we stopped somewhere along Coastal Road for a roll call, and we entered Cavite via CAVITEX. As we drove through the towns of Kawit, Tanza, Naic and Ternate on the way to Nasugbu, you can bet that so many bystanders along the national highway had their eyes full with a convoy of MINIs.

“Did you see that man’s face? His jaw dropped,” my “driver” said.

“I would have the same reaction, too,” she admitted.

I haven’t been asked to go on a road test since then — I still don’t know how to drive — but maybe I’d take the chance to give my friend a chance to enjoy herself driving a fast car.

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