Dubai Diaries: My 15 minutes of fame

Dubai - What would you do to win an Aston Martin?

Photo/Kirstin Bernabe-Santos
Photo/Kirstin Bernabe-Santos

Kirstin Bernabe

Published: Wed 22 Sep 2021, 9:00 AM

Last updated: Wed 22 Sep 2021, 9:01 AM

They say everyone can have 15 minutes of fame in a lifetime — I was granted mine in Dubai, when I got my hand on an Aston Martin. No, I wasn’t given the keys nor was I even able to sit behind the wheel: I just literally placed my hand on the James Bond supercar for nine hours straight. No toilet breaks, no sitting, no proper meals. It was the craziest thing I have ever done in this city.

It was a challenge I got myself into back in 2018, when Emirates NBD rolled out a massive marketing campaign, promoting a draw where its customers could win a limited-edition Aston Martin DB9. It was called ‘Last of 9’ because there were only nine such cars in the world.

I know nothing about supercars, so when I filled out a form and sent an entry to that campaign, I had no idea what I was doing. The bank was looking for nine contestants who could hold on to the rare car ‘until the very end’ for a chance to win a trip to the Aston Martin factory in the UK, plus a wild card entry into the draw with the DB9 as the prize.

Next thing I knew, I was at City Walk, trying to empty my bladder as much as I could but also making sure I was well hydrated for the challenge. What I thought would be a no-frills event turned out to be a grand production, hosted by radio DJ JJ Thompson. Cranes and countless cameras were on the set, and a massive production crew was all over the square.

I felt like a cool kid for once, with my hipster bomber jacket, ripped jeans and floral Dr Martens. Before the challenge, each contestant was briefly interviewed — which, for me, was more nerve-wracking than the main event! My mind was still wallowing in disbelief until I secured my position and placed my hand on the DB9. There was no turning back.

The rule was straightforward. We should never lift our hands and if we did, we would be out of the game. But there were tricks, surprises and all sorts of distractions along the way. They tried tickling us with a feather; blasted us with a leaf blower; called in a bagpiper; sent out some toy spiders; created all sorts of noises; and tempted us with Dh2,000 shopping vouchers and more, just so we could finally put our hands in the air.

Only one can win, but after nine long hours, only two gave up. Believe me, the seven of us were already thinking of spending the night out there in the cold. Then, they decided to just raffle the prize off. Well, I didn’t win, but I still felt lucky to have had such a crazy story to tell. My hand had already gone numb by the time I let go of the car. While rotating my wrist, I walked my way to the taxi stand and faded back into obscurity. Time’s up, cool kid.

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