Author : Bob Newbell, Featured Writer

The President of the United States smiled as the press photographed and video recorded her handshake with the Un’Vidik representative. The tall, spindly alien showed no emotion. How could it, encased as it was in its stark white encounter suit? The alien and the President left the photo op and entered the White House.

It was with reluctance that the captain of the immense Un’Vidik starship had agreed to the meeting at all. But its vessel had had to touch down on the Moon to replete its ship’s helium-3 supply and as the United States was the only nation thus far to have landed astronauts on the Moon, the American request for a personal meeting had been the one that the aliens had at last agreed to honor.

After the President and the alien sat down, the American spoke. “Captain, I sincerely hope that this is merely the beginning of a long and mutually beneficial relationship between your people and the human race.”

“I appreciate the sentiment, Madame President,” the Un’Vidik replied through its encounter suit’s speaker. “But I’m afraid further contact between our peoples is unlikely. This current meeting is itself highly irregular to say the least. If you will forgive my bluntness, humanity has a certain…reputation in the galaxy.”

The President sighed and nodded. “You’ve monitored our television broadcasts. You know that Man is a violent species. But, Captain, a good many of our wars have been fought to preserve freedom and justice. And surely you must know many of history’s most revered figures have been men of peace? Mohandas Gandhi of India, for example. And my own country’s Martin Luther King, Jr.”

“Madame President,” said the Un’Vidik, “mankind’s history of violence is not at issue. Conflict, while most regrettable, is universal. There are five separate wars being waged across the galaxy at this very moment. And the combatants hail from worlds that have produced great works of literature, music, and philosophy.”

The American looked surprised. “Well then, Captain, is it humanity’s religious beliefs? Is agnosticism the norm in the galaxy?”

“Far from it,” said the alien. “Many advanced and civilized worlds possess one or more faiths. I happen to be a practicing member of the Communion of the Cosmic Superintendence myself.”

“Then what problem is it that the rest of the galaxy has with the human race?” asked the President.

“To be quite frank,” said the Un’Vidik, “you humans can’t drive.”

“What?!” exclaimed the American.

“There are 24 distinct interstellar polities,” the alien captain said. “They represent a myriad of political structures, religions, and philosophies. Yet one common feature to all of them is the deep-seated belief that the ability to operate vehicles is a hallmark of civilization. There are more motor vehicle accidents on Earth than in the rest of the galaxy combined. To say one ‘drives like a human’ is considered a harsh insult on over a hundred worlds.”

“You’re telling me Earth is considered a backwater because of bad drivers?” The President was stunned.

“Madame President, I hope the day comes when Man will learn not to drive slowly in the fast lane and that a turn without a turn signal is an act of utter barbarity. When that day comes, you will be ready to join galactic civilization. Until then, know that the Un’Vidik are grateful for the use of your Moon to refuel our ship. And on a personal note, I will pray to the Cosmic Superintendence that your people will learn how to manage a four-way stop.”

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