Anyway, it's not people who have the worst of driving lessons, it's crash test dummies. By chance, I happen to have recently been in correspondence with a family of crash test dummies about their driving experiences, and I present to you now the results of this correspondence. I have made some minor amendments to make it more readable. I hope you like it.
NICE DRIVING, DUMMY!
The sun was shining brightly as Julia Dummy made her way from her house to the car where her father was waiting in the driver's seat. Julia had just taken her Crash Test Dummy Driver's Licence Learner's test the other day, with only one answer wrong. But as her father drove off, she couldn't help but feel a little nervous.
Finally, they reached a wide an empty block, where her father pulled up and stopped. He got out and walked to the other side of the vehicle while Julia Dummy slid over to the driver's seat. Her hands gripped tightly on the wheel and trembled slightly as she turned the engine on, just as her father had shown her. The engine revved with frightening force.
"Now," said her father, hopping in the other side, "For starters, drive into that wall over there."
Julia Dummy placed the car in first gear, and began to drive forward, staring determinedly at the wall. The car crept forward for a few steps, then suddenly -
"Wait! WAIT! Stop!" cried her father. "What are you doing?"
"Driving into the wall," said Julia, puzzled.
"At that speed? You might hit the wall, but even if you do, you won't do any damage at all!"
Her father banged his plastic hand on the dashboard to make a point. "You're not a HOON, Julia Dummy!"
Julia thought immediately of those hoon crash test dummies who drove late at night in the parking lots. She saw them sometimes when she helped her parents out with late-night shopping. They would drive at incredibly slow speeds, shouting and hollering like maniacs, exhilarated by the lack of danger. Sometimes they would even drive their cars away from one another for distances, like humans, only to turn aside at the last moment so as to make the smallest of crashes. She bit her plastic lips together as she thought about it. No. She didn't want to be like that. She didn't ever want to be like them.
Julia Dummy ignited the engine and the car started rolling forward. She turned the car up to first, second and then third gear, coasting along towards the wall now at a rapid pace. Then, kicking the engine into fourth, she sped along, and was about to change into fifth gear, when -
- the car crunched to a halt and parts of the window screen fell about the Dummies as the car slammed with extraordinary force into the wall. Mr Dummy was thrown right out of his seat, and Julia flopped forwards and back and forwards again before remembering to turn the engine off.
"Hmm," said her father after a few moments, picking up his head from the floor, dusting a few shards of glass off, and screwing it back on, "Nice hit. Almost dead on centre!"
"I was so afraid I'd miss!" said Julia, trying not to sound a little triumphant.
"Now," said her father, turning his head this way and that to make sure it was in place, "How about backing up and to the right and into that tree behind us?"
Julia craned her head out the window and looked in the rear view mirror, and then looked back to see where the tree was. Reverse gear was complicated, but she knew she had to try to get this right. She put the car into reverse, began to turn to the right, and accelerated, keeping her eye on the mirror. A wave of fear hit her and she thought, "Oh, my God! I've missed the tree, I've missed the tree!" But -
There was a sudden grinding of gears, and the engine roared terribly. The car suddenly wasn't going anywhere any more. Julia shut off the engine as her father got out. In a moment, she walked around to the back of the car, too.
She had hit the tree, but not in the centre. It grazed the far left of the car, denting it slightly, and once branch just managing to take out a light. But if she had turned any further, she might have missed it!
"I think you probably need a bit more practice in driving into things in reverse," said her father. "But that's okay. We can do some more later."
As they walked back to the car, Julia Dummy wondered fearfully what might have happened if she had missed the tree. It was horrible; maybe she would have gone on and on and not hit anything! She wished she didn't get so worried about driving.
"There are some big rocks and a public toilet over there," said her father. "Let's practice hitting them for a bit! This time we'll try a few turns - but not at slow speeds, you're not experienced enough for that. Fifth gear!"
Over the next half-hour, Julia Dummy and her father turned at high speeds into rocks and trees, sped into public monuments and facilities, slammed into walls and houses, and collided with horrifying force into hills. Then they decided to wind things up with a bit of parking, and for the next ten minutes, Julia Dummy worked on her skills in bumping into cars behind her and in front of her. ("It's a bit tricky, but you'll learn soon enough," said Mr Dummy consolingly.) Then, just when it looked like things were done, they saw in the distance Mr and Mrs Jones - a family of crash test dummies who were neighbours, obviously out for a little morning smash.
"Hmm," said Mr Dummy. "Why don't we drive into them and say hello?"
Feeling that she could handle this quite easily, Julia Dummy kicked the car into fifth gear, and accelerated at two hundred kilometres an hour towards the Joneses! Her confidence was growing now. She thought she was getting the hang of this driving business. After all, there was always something to run into, wasn't there?
As they drew nearer, the Joneses car continued to putt putt along at the same pace. Julia was puzzled. It was almost as if they didn't want a collision to happen, and were just out for a Sunday drive. Closer they came, and a small anxiety grew in Julia's mind. She had been counting on them swerving towards her. She had driven in a wide arc to allow this sort of thing to happen.
"OH MY GOD!" shouted Julia Dummy, the truth dawning on her. "THEY'RE LOOKING THE OTHER WAY! THEY'RE GOING TO MISS US, DAD!"
"TURN, TURN!" shouted her father, frightened now. "YOU CAN STILL HIT THEM!"
They weren't far away now. Julia saw that old Mr Jones - he had been a crash test dummy for the army at one time, so he could be forgiven for being a little forgetful now - turn his head and spy the Dummies speeding towards him. He joyfully kicked his car into high gear, and sped towards them and an inevitable -
It was certainly one of the best crashes Julia Dummy had been in for a long time. Not only did her father fly out of his seat, allowing him to shout, "Fancy bumping into YOU!" at old Mr and Mrs Jones, but both cars immediately exploded nicely. The four of them - Mr and Mrs Jones, Mr Dummy and Julia - looked at the smouldering wrecks of the cars in satisfaction.
"Wonderful hit, Julia!" shouted Mr Dummy. "You've written our cars both off! You're a natural driver!"
"Come on, dears," said Mrs Jones. "There's a train leaving soon that's due to be derailed at our street. Let's catch that..."
That night, Mr Dummy brought ice-cream for the whole family to celebrate Julia Dummy's wonderful crash. Driving was a funny business, thought Julia as she ate her ice cream. But not that hard, once you learned how to hit things. Not that hard at all...