Dear Brothers,

Roughly three years ago, my girlfriend climbed into her car (a 1986 VW Golf, if you're curious) to leave for work. Just before she shut the door, she said "I love you" for the first time. Being an emotional, nineties kind of guy, I paused, glanced at the steely grey sky to savor the moment, then redirected my gaze at her car to say what any true romantic would, given the same circumstances:

"I should really fix these rust spots before winter."

Tears welled up in her eyes. The moment was more than she could bear. She turned the key in the ignition once, twice, and sped off to her workplace.

Not much later that day, I received a telephone call from the very same girlfriend. Rather than greeting me with an enthusiastic "hello, my love" as I felt I had every right to expect, she was downright bitter. According to her, my response to her confession of love was callous and insufficient.

My viewpoint was somewhat different. In fact, I argued, by promising to fix the rust spots on her car, I had gone beyond telling her I loved her. I was actually extending the intention to demonstrate it in a most tangible way.

She didn't buy it.

In fact, three years later, she still tells the same story to everyone willing to listen. She also tells the one about the time I gave an overweight septugenarian the Heimlich Maneuver in a busy restaurant until she said (between thrusts) "you're....hurting...me" but that's a different story, rife with the potential for litigation.

Anyhow, the message finally got through to Nellie (the girlfriend) that the promise of rust repair equals love. On September 11th, 1999, we're to be married. She still drives the 1986 VW Golf. And by God, I should really fix those rust spots.

Dan Edwards

[ As Read on Car Talk ]