Car Guy: Managing the 'meeja'
Our resident car guy was never told how to 'do' motoring events. Nothing scares him more than 'the meeeeja kiss.' Largely because he knows he'll muck it up in one way or another.
Since I entered the world of motoring journalism I've had much to learn. Important stuff. You know, like what are the protocols surrounding how to behave on launches.
Is it acceptable to scoop leftover gravy from your dinner plate with your dessert spoon in the restaurant? Is it prudent to attach brightly hued pompoms a suitcase to make it easier to spot on the airport luggage conveyor?
But the biggest hurdle encountered so far is kissing.
Now, I'm a man from the North where, generally speaking, kissing means you've either pulled (highly unlikely) or you're visiting a seldom seen great aunt. And where octogenarian women from Rotherham are concerned, that kiss is accompanied by a top lip akin to a Wild West cactus.
You see, there seems to be this unwritten rule regarding something called the 'Media Kiss.' Such is the way of things that menfolk on launches offer a stout handshake, which I've mastered, but broadly women are exponents of this Media Kiss.
I'd not read about it on Twitter. No editor had ever taken me to one side to explain it. I can't remember any of the magazine stalwarts reminiscing about it in their columns either. Perhaps I needed to get a journalism degree -- they must run workshops on it during the final semester.
What I ascertained very quickly was that it's different from the 'Actors' Kiss.' Those stars of stage and screen don't actually press lips to cheek. It's simulated, or acted more precisely, and regularly involves theatrically delivered "mmmmmmmwahs" betwixt the "dahhrlings" and "Gielgud would have turned in his grave if he'd seen his performances".
The Media Kiss is a real one. Or rather, they're a real two. One on each cheek.
Try and handshake and the result is unsatisfactory. You're marked out as a novice. Be hesitant and you risk landing your endeavour straight on her lips, which isn't the done thing either. Although it could be worse; nosebleeds are the least welcome conclusion.
As a man who likes to take all he does seriously and professionally, I sought to get to grips with the scenario and by the fourth launch I'd got it nailed. There's no secret to the technique -- after all, it's there for all to observe.
Step 1: Approach with a smile and a "Hey, how're you?" Step 2: Right hand softly on her left arm and plant a kiss on her right cheek Step 3: As sides are swapped add in a "Great to see you again" before placing the left hand on her right arm and planting the second on her left cheek
It's that easy. No expert knowledge required.
Being a fastidious enjoyer of detail (after all, how else is one supposed to remember all the wheel trim and alloy designs from the 1988 launch of the Vauxhall Cavalier without having a special talent?), things don't pass me by. By coincidence woman understand this 'noticing' as something they call 'compliments'. They work thus:
Step 4: "Isn't you hair a little more brunette than since I last saw you? It really suits you." Step 5: "That shade of lipstick makes the colour of your eyes sparkle." Step 6: "Wow! You're rocking those Louboutins."
I almost sound normal, as though I've been accepted and that I'm beginning to fit in. I'm actually conversing with someone who doesn't look like they've emerged from a hole in order to buy carburettors for a 1932 Riley at an autojumble.
And then I blow it.
"So, who's best to talk to about getting hold of some sales brochures to add to my collection?"
Back to the drawing board.