The former First Lady admits she hasn't driven a car for 18 years. But she's far from being the only privileged person to have forgotten how to do things the rest of us take for granted
"One of the regrets I have about my public life is that I can't drive any more," Hillary Clinton told a car dealers' conference on Monday. Among her most painful memories, you suspect this doesn't rank all that high. Yet the remark is a reminder of how wealth and power tend to separate people from normal life, and how they don't always like it. Clinton has not driven a car since 1996, on the instructions of the secret service, and it is something that her husband pines for too. "Whenever I'm on the golf course I always make them let me drive the golf cart," Bill Clinton has said.
In the case of former prime minister Tony Blair, it was the advent of digital technology that utterly passed him by when he took office in 1997. By his own account, it was 10 years before he got a personal email address or learned to text or use a mobile phone.
For Harry Redknapp, you suspect, not having to use technology is one of the unsung advantages of a career in football. "I can't work a computer," he told police before being acquitted of tax-dodging. "I don't know what an email is … I have never sent a fax and I've never even sent a text message." In a more recent trial, Charles Saatchi was said to have such an objection to using electronic payment cards that he took to keeping a plastic bag full of cash on top of the fridge.
Bags full of cash aside, such things are of course expected of the royal family – although they are perhaps more self-sufficient than people think. Diana's former butler, Paul Burrell, claimed that Prince Charles had staff to hold a urine collection bottle steady and squeeze toothpaste on to his brush in the morning, but this has since been denied by Clarence House. It is also worth noting that the Queen herself, according to Damian McBride's recent memoir, drives her own Range Rover around Balmoral.
For other rich people, however, feeling like a royal is part of the point of being wealthy. Sara Vestin Rahmani, owner of the Bespoke Bureau, an agency that supplies domestic staff, and herself an employer of servants, agrees that rich clients do become deskilled after years of being waited on. "Although," she adds, "it wouldn't be recognised as a problem unless they become poor … I'm not a good driver, and I've opted to have somebody drive me so I would be safer. If I had to jump in the driver's seat that would not be a good thing."
Certainly, when it comes to the menial business of the household, she finds little appetite for mucking in. "Definitely, clients wouldn't know how to operate their own washing machines and dishwashers, and they typically don't know how to operate their own security systems," she says. "You know who to call, be it your butler or your housekeeper or your PA, but you do become a bit of a child."
And children, as we know, can be unreasonable. "Last week," Vestin Rahmani says, "we had one of our Russian clients get rid of his chauffeur because the chauffeur wouldn't speed him to the airport at 100 miles an hour." I suppose that's one nice thing about the secret service.
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