Look out! He’s got keys!

August 9, 1996

People say that, in Tennessee, you practically have to hit the instructor before you can fail a driving test. Well, as we all know, there are exceptions to everything, and I’m usually it. To this day I’m still legally a pedestrian. Maybe I just have bad luck with instructors. To illustrate my point, here’s one attempt at getting my license: I arrived early with my mother’s Camaro, a nice, small car that I’d been practicing with. I went through the written test, the eye test, and anything else they could think to throw at me, and then failed the driving test before we even got out of the parking lot. Why? The car’s horn didn’t work. Seatbelts, brakes, windshield–all those life-saving devices were in perfect condition, but driving a car without a horn is just too hazardous. They were going to fail me, but I pleaded that I’d be able to get another car, and they grudgingly agreed. Three hours went by. I watched people dent the cars next to them, drive in the wrong lane, ignore stop signs, and get their licenses. Finally my father showed up with his Cadillac, a car I’d never driven. Now, with my limited driving experience, this was kind of like learning with a sailboat and being given a battleship. Now, everyone who’d ever taken a driving test at this place had been finished in ten minutes. Because it was late in the day, because the instructor didn’t want any more work than she absolutely had to have, I got taken on the first ever forty-five minute driving test. Most of it went well, but at one point the instructor suddenly decided she wanted me to turn in another direction even though I was in the wrong lane heading quickly toward a red light with another car just close enough behind me in the other lane that I couldn’t easily change lanes. Well, I sped up, cut off the other car, went slightly off on to the shoulder, and, fortunately, remembered to stop at the red light. Naturally I failed–for brushing the shoulder with the right front tire. Now you know why Sri Lanka is my home-away-from-home: cars there are about as common as blizzards. Enjoy this week’s offering–it’s about people who make even me look intelligent.


How Not to Rob a Bank

The following is an excerpt from Tim Clark’s "How Not to Rob a Bank" Here are some easy lessons gleaned from the experiences of a number of would-be robbers.

PICK THE RIGHT BANK
You don’t want to make the same mistake as the fellow in Anaheim, CA, who tried to hold up a bank that was no longer in business and had no money.

STUDY YOUR HISTORY
Don’t try to stick up the First National Bank of Northfield, Minnesota. Jesse James tried it 111 years ago, and the townsfolk took just seven minutes to kill two and capture three of his gang. Nobody tried again until 1984, and the customers chased the guy down. They’re tight with their dollar, those Minnesotans.

SPEAK TO THE RIGHT TELLER
One robber in Upland, CA, presented his note to the teller, and her father, who was in the next line, got all bent out of shape about it. He wrestled the guy to the ground and sat on him until authorities arrived.

DON’T SIGN YOUR DEMAND NOTE
Demand notes have been written on the back of a subpoena issued in the name of a bank robber in Pittsburgh… on an envelope bearing the name and address of another in Detroit….and in East Hartford, Connecticut, on the back of a withdrawal slip giving the robber’s signature and account number.

DON’T ADVERTISE
A teenage girl in Los Angeles tried to distract attention from her face by wearing a see-through blouse with no bra while holding up banks.

GO EASY ON THE DISGUISE
One robber, dressed up as a woman with very heavy make-up, ran face first into a glass door. He was the first criminal ever to be positively identified by lip-print.

TAKE RIGHT TURNS ONLY
Avoid the sad fate of the thieves in Florida who took a wrong turn into the Homestead Air Force Base, drove up to a military police guardhouse and, thinking it was a toll-booth, offered the security men money.

BE AWARE OF THE TIME
Or the chagrin of the bank robber in Cheshire, Massachusetts, who hit the bank at 4:30 PM, then tried to escape through downtown North Adams, where he was trapped in rush hour traffic until police arrived.

CONSIDER ANOTHER LINE OF WORK
Bank robbery is not for everyone. One nervous Newport, RI robber, while trying to stuff his ill-gotten gains into his shirt pocket, shot himself in the head and died instantly.

BE STRONG
Then there was the case of the hopeful criminal in Swansea, Massachusetts, who, when the teller told him she had no money, fainted. He was still unconscious when the police arrived. His getaway car, parked nearby, had the keys locked inside it.

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