Collapsing Clutch

The Puzzler

RAY: A guy came into the shop with his Volvo on the back of a tow truck. He walks in and says, "Oh, I'm in trouble, guys. I need your help." So we immediately do a Dunn & Bradstreet on him and finally agree to take his case. He says the clutch cable has broken five times in the last five months. I asked what happened, and he said, "I don't know. I had a new clutch put in six months ago. When they put the new clutch in, they advised me to put a new cable in. I said go ahead. A month later they closed up shop and headed for some unknown Pacific Island when the clutch cable breaks." So the guy continues the story. He says that he puts a new clutch cable in, thinking the one that the shop put in was defective. A month later that cable breaks. Another month goes by and that cable breaks. By this time, he says, "I was at my wit's end. I figured the clutch had to be defective, so I brought it to another shop and, what? They install a brand-new clutch. And, of course, what? A new clutch cable.

TOM: I just want you to know, I still don't remember this Puzzler.

RAY: Well, I don't either. I'm hoping that reading it here, my memory will be jogged. A month later the cable breaks again. He says, "Sonja Henie's tutu!" I asked him under what circumstances it breaks. He says, "I start the car, I go to drive it away, I step on the clutch or I go to shift it into gear. I get to the corner, for example, and I shift into neutral. I wait for the light to turn green. I step on the clutch and the cable breaks." I said, "Oh, my God." I asked him if the car starts now. He said, "I don't even bother to start it. Since the cable was broken, what was the sense?" I say to him, "I bet it won't start." He said, "Why shouldn't it start? It started yesterday; it has nothing to do with the clutch." Anyway, we go out to the car and turn the key--dead. Starts right up--no. It won't start. He asks, "What does that have to do with my clutch cable breaking?" I say...

TOM: Everything.

RAY: Everything.

TOM: Is this the same old chestnut that we've used about five times?

RAY: You have to spoil everything. You wonder why I have no sympathy about your Dart. You wonder.

TOM: You understand now why I remember the Puzzler--because you've used it five times.

RAY: I haven't used it five times. It just seems that way.

TOM: Twice.

RAY: This is the second time it's ever been used. The first time was 19 years ago when I first saw this happen.

TOM: Excellent. What a memory I have.

Think you know? Drop Ray a note!

[ Car Talk Puzzler ]

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