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I am trying to rediscover a short science fiction story/article. It was about an alien on Earth trying to drive an ordinary automobile and of course finding the whole thing pretty much impossible, as he didn't know in which order the controls needed to be operated (switch on ignition, engage drive, press accelerator etc) and tried various combinations without getting anywhere.

I am pretty sure it was from the 1950s or 1960s and that it was intended as a parody of the sort of old pulp stories where earthmen manage to take and fly alien spaceships with very little bother.

  • When did you read it? Please read our guide to improve your question. – Stormblessed Aug 20 at 21:14
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    Hmm. Didn't Zoot Marlowe do exactly this? (But this is a novel) – Spencer Aug 20 at 22:28
  • Are you sure it was science fiction? Diana Wynne Jones wrote a short story about a wizard who stole a car and had trouble driving it. – NiceOrc Aug 21 at 0:15
  • What is that other story you mentioned, where a human leaps into an alien spacecraft and drives off without any trouble? I don't think I read that one. – user14111 Aug 21 at 0:59
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I remember that story vaguely but I don't know the title either.... sorry! But! I can reassure you that you aren't imagining it and that yes, it was about an alien. This excerpt is from my copy of "Oracle SQL Tuning with Oracle SQLTXPLAIN" by Stelios Charalambides:

Be like the alien who came to earth to try his hand at driving. He'd read all about it and knew the physics involved in the engine. It sounded like fun. He sat down in the driver's seat and turned the ignition; the engine ticked over nicely, and the electrics were on. He put his seatbelt on and tentatively pressed the accelerator pedal. Nothing happened. Ah! Maybe the handbrake was on. He released the handbrake and pressed the accelerator again. Nothing happened. Later, standing back from the car and wondering why he couldn't get it to go anywhere, he wondered why the roof was in contact with the road.

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    If you don’t know the answer then this is just a comment pointing in the right direction not an answer to the question. – TheLethalCarrot Aug 21 at 17:46
  • @TheLethalCarrot it is faintly possible that this is actually the reference the OP is remembering. – Ben Barden Aug 21 at 17:55
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    @BenBarden maybe, maybe not. However this “answer” clearly states ”but I don't know the title either” meaning they are admitting it isn’t an answer. – TheLethalCarrot Aug 21 at 17:57
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    On the other hand, it's a strong reference. Good enough for a partial answer in my book. – FuzzyBoots Aug 21 at 18:16
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    True, that's a good reference but not an answer - as you can't comment yet, and this is useful info we don't want to lose just because of that, I've flagged your answer to be turned into a comment. :) – Jenayah Aug 21 at 18:33

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