For reasons that I shall not delve into here, I recently attended a long lecture on driving safety. In front of what could be described as a captive audience, the instructor wove a number of highly unlikely personal stories into his lessons. Some of these involved preposterous tales of his alleged superhuman driving abilities and daring-do, some were made ups stories about his supposed time as a Navy Seal in Vietnam (the details of which he may have lifted from a popular war novel and various urban myths). By the way, if anyone ever tells you that he was a Navy Seal in Vietnam, you should be extremely skeptical, as the Seals only numbered about 500 at the time.
Because the egomaniacal driving lecturer (employed by AAA, by the way) was so obviously lying about his personal exploits, I found it difficult to believe anything he told us about driving, let alone all the seemingly random bits of information he sprinkled into his talk. I took a few notes and did some research. Sure enough, he was full of crap.
Because you may run across some of these myths in your internet or worldly travels, I present them here, all conveniently debunked for you:
Lies My Driving Safety Instructor Told Me
- “60% of women would be more willing to give up sex than their mobile phone.”
- This is an online myth that is based on a misreading of survey results. Often, 3rd or 4th-hand accounts claim the number to be 70%. The survey, commissioned by TeleNav, Inc., actually revealed that 1/3 of respondents said they would rather give up sex than their cell phones. Of those, 70% were women. Therefore, 23% of women claimed to be so inclined.
- “Only 14% of murders are solved.”
- Actually, it’s 35%.
- “People have had cell phone receivers implanted in their ears.”
- This rumor apparently originated as an April Fools article.
- “ATM machines have Braille on buttons because the buttons are massed produced and the makers don’t know where they are being sent.”
- Actually, To be specific, section 4.34.4 of the ADA Accessibility Guidelines for Buildings and Facilities (Appendix to Part 1191, 36 CFR Chapter XI, issued pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990) says, “Instructions and all information for use [of an automated teller machine] shall be made accessible to and independently usable by persons with vision impairments.” See this article from The Straight Dope.
- “The middle finger insult came from a gesture of English archers to show the French that they weren’t afraid of having their fingers cut off.”
- Variations of this completely made up story can be found all over the internet. The offensive middle finger gesture is actually from ancient Greek culture where it represented, as one might suspect, a phallus.
- “In Greece, a drunk driving arrest leads to 30 days in a dungeon.”
- He said this. It is not true.
- “In Scandinavia a 2nd drunk driving offense leads to a lifetime license suspension and in a 3rd conviction you are killed.”
- There is no death penalty in any Scandinavian country.
- “In Bulgaria and El Salvador, a DUI conviction leads to a death sentence.”
- This ridiculous rumor is also big on line. El Salvador and Bulgaria, like other civilized nations, have abolished the death penalty. For the record, here is a list of some dunk driving laws from various countries.
- “If you want to win at slot machines, play the ones that are losing because the odds are that they will then win.”
- The odds of a slot machine pay-out are programmed in to the machine and are the same each play, regardless of how recently the machine has been a winner for someone.
- “Tomato juice gets rid of skunk smell.”
- Although this is a traditional home remedy, tomato juice does not eliminate skunk odor. Tomato juice can distract you from the stink of the stunk because of its own strong smell, but it does nothing to neutralize the chemicals in skunk spray. Instead, you end up smelling like skunk marinara sauce.
- “8% of pollution is caused by cars.”
- I suppose it would make sense for an employee of AAA to downplay automobile pollution, but as the Union of Concerned Scientists points out, “Transportation is the largest single source of air pollution in the United States. It caused over half of the carbon monoxide, over a third of the nitrogen oxides, and almost a quarter of the hydrocarbons in our atmosphere in 2006.”
- “Sunsets are caused by pollution.”
- No, Virginia, sunsets are caused by the setting sun. Particulate air pollution can alter the color of sunsets, but it is the thickness of the atmosphere that preferentially scatters some frequencies of light to redden the sky.
- “People hate me for driving a pick up truck.”
- While I can’t cite any scientific studies to dispute this, I suspect people hate you for being a fount of disinformation and self-aggrandizement that you force your audiences to wade through for hours on end.
- “Avatars would be more powerful than human beings.”
- This is just a weird thing to say.
All these lies and more were uttered by one driving instructor, drunk on his perceived power over his audience (he challenged us to confront him on anything he was saying, but everyone just wanted to get out of there with a certificate of completion). This was all in a single afternoon obsensiby devoted to driver safety instruction. While it may have been annoying at the time, at least it gave me something to blog about. So, thanks, AAA driving instructor! Your cascade of lies has entertained untold thousands of casual blog readers.
After the US Navy Seals killed Osama Bin Laden, it became commonplace for blowhards like my driving instructor to falsely claim affiliation with the Seals. If anyone should start a story, as my driving instructor did, with, “You know those guys that got Osama Bin Laden? I’m one of them,” a gigantic red flag should go up. He then went on to tell the familiar tale of how his unit was approached in ‘Nam by a 4 year old child and that his commanding officer shot the child dead because he could tell the kid was strapped with explosives. This was one of those “I’ve seen a lot of sh- in my days” stories and led to his complaints about his unit returning from the war to a public that called them “baby killers!” and spat at them.
Let’s untangle this web of deceit here. The child strapped with explosives story may have been based on real incidents from the war. There are stories from US vets of children having been strapped with explosives by the Vietcong. Stories like this are repeated through so many generations of retelling that its difficult to say how many true events they are based on. It’s possible that my driving instructor merely lifted the story from the novel Fallen Angels, by Walter Dean Myers.
What I do know is that it never happened to my driving instructor, since he wasn’t actually a Navy Seal, no stories like this have ever been associated with the Seals, and he probably never served in Vietnam to begin with. After all, it took a response from his audience of, “You mean the Navy Seals?” for him to confirm that this was the unit he served with. Of course, while he was telling us all this, he was also saying that it was secret. Kind of a big give away there.
He was describing all of this necessary killing of children as an introduction to his indignation over having been spat upon on his return to the States. We hear a lot about Vietnam Vets getting spat at by an unsupportive public. While I can’t say for certain that this never occurred anywhere at any time to anyone, this image of the vets’ return has grown to mythological proportions. This article goes a long way toward explaining how the stories of veterans being spat upon may have started and quickly spread.
Clicking either of these 2 flowers will take you to more lies my internet told me.
Bonus: Anyone who spends any time on Twitter or Tumblr has probably come across the claim that the word “heck” is a mix of “hell” and “fuck.” Before you reblog and retweet this amazing fact, you should know that it simply is not true. It seems so outrageous that people want it to be true, but it’s a myth. The word “heck” is just a euphemism for “hell,” originating in the late 19th century.