Back in the early ’80s (when I lived in a ‘burb called Berkeley Heights, NJ), I had an English friend named Sue Lawson. Her two children (Christopher and Philippa) were going to school in England and wanted nothing to do with New Jersey. However, she (once) managed to persuade Christopher to take a summer job at Bell Labs so she could be with him, at least for a few months.
Chris was skeptical of the notion, to say the least. It was bad enough that Americans drove on the wrong side of the road; but what was there to DO in Berkeley Heights, anyway? Sue figured that if he became comfortable driving here, he would find things to do and people to do them with.
So her first experiment was to send him to the pharmacy a few blocks away, driving the family station wagon (which her husband always insisted on calling a “shooting break”). Chris reluctantly agreed.
The drug store was in a tiny strip mall off Springfield Ave., and he cautiously pulled in, looking for a parking spot while simultaneously focusing on driving “backwards.” Everything went fine till a powder blue car pulled out of its spot — and then went straight for him. There was a crash (not a big one, as Chris wasn’t moving and the blue car hadn’t gotten up a head of steam yet).
The hard thing for Christopher to wrap his mind around, though, was that the blue car was driven by . . . a DOG! In fact, it was a golden retriever, oddly named Chivas Regal.
As if that weren’t humiliating enough, the police came and promptly collapsed in hysterics. They asked the dog for its age (3) and its license (it didn’t have one with it).
The owner (a scion of the Berkeley Hardware dynasty) had left the engine running and dashed into the drugstore for a moment. The dog got excited and, while bouncing around, hit the gear shift twice (once for Reverse; once for Drive). And the rest is history.
Christopher never spent another vacation in the U.S., but at least he did not have to pay for the damage to his mom’s car.
I can’t remember what other questions the cops asked the dog: what do YOU think they asked? (Send me your answers! I’ll post them!)
And don’t forget to drive carefully . . . backwards!