Finally, science has answered this important question: Can a rat learn to drive a car? And the answer is: Yes.
As reported in various reliable publications, including New Scientist’s daily online newsletter, a researcher at the University of Richmond and her colleagues wanted to know if rats could learn to drive motor vehicles. I know there were larger scientific ramifications to this study that included cognitive development, stimulated environments and blah, blah, blah, but the upshot is scientists built small plastic electric-powered cars and eventually coaxed rats into driving them by rewarding the rodents with Fruit Loops.
Because video of rats driving tiny cars is TV ratings gold, nearly every media outlet from national big boys like CNN to local action news at 5 in countless cities had adorable clips of whisker-twitching rodents climbing into plastic cars, taking off and slamming into walls. Admittedly, it was adorable.
But I’m a print journalist, and adorable doesn’t cut it in my world. There’s always more to the story. That’s why I dug deep and landed an exclusive interview with a rat directly involved in the project. Or did I? Who knows? We live in a disturbing era of alternative facts and truth blindly ignored so let’s just agree that I landed an exclusive interview with a talking rat who drives a car. Here it is.
Me: Mr. Rat, thank you sitting down for this interview. I know you are quite busy with all the poking and prodding and driving adorably into walls.
Mr. Rat: No problem, big guy. Hey, call me Ricky. We’re all friends here. Can I get you anything? Cold beer? Fruit Loops? Bubonic plague? Ha, ha, ha. That’s just a little rat joke.
Me: No thank you, I’m fine, Ricky. How did you become part of this groundbreaking research project?
Ricky: I was hanging out by the dumpster behind Long John Silver when a guy in a lab coat approached me. He said, “How would you like to go for a drive?” I said, “I don’t know what kind of rat you think I am, but you’re not my type, Poindexter.” Turns out he just wants to teach me to drive. Can you believe that?
Me: How difficult was it for you to learn to drive?
Ricky: It was a piece of cake …mmm, cake. So much better than cheese. Rats and cheese are such a stereotype. Cheese, no way, but you bait a trap with cake or Fruit Loops and I’m as good as dead. But yeah, it was that easy. Sure, I took the side mirror off the car the first time I hit a McDonald’s drive-thru but, hey, I’m a rat, right?
Me: What’s your biggest challenge as a rodent motorist?
Ricky: Besides finding a good radio station, it’s paying the freakin’ insurance bill. I turned in that little accident with the side mirror and my premiums went through the roof. I’m shopping around. You know anything about that lizard that sells policies on the tube? Talks funny but he seems honest.
Me: Sorry, I can’t offer any insurance advice here until one of the major companies begins sponsoring this column and then I will wholeheartedly recommend that one for home, life and auto. What are conditions like inside the research facility?
Ricky: It’s been great. I got my own sweet ride, nice rims, all the Fruit Loops I can eat. But lately, there have been a few problems. I don’t know if I am supposed to talk about this publicly, but, here’s a scoop for you. We’ve got a couple of squirrels in here now and they are terrible drivers. Speeding like maniacs. Never using their turn signals. Chattering away when they should be paying attention to the road. They are nuts, I tell ya.
Me: Ricky, thank you for this exclusive interview and thank you for your pioneering work in the field of rodent transportation.
Ricky: Hey, anything for science — and Fruit Loops.