Dear Tom and Ray:
My dad was the kind of man who seemed to know about everything mechanical. Since he died, I miss being able to call and ask him some obscure question that he could answer; he really did seem to know everything. The other day, I realized that reading your column is the closest thing I've had to having my dad here for a resource. So, thanks for your humor and the information; although you're not old enough to be my dad, you're smart enough. My question: In your years of experience, who would you say is harder on a car -- men or women? I know what my dad would say; what do you say? -- Theresa
TOM: Well, first of all, Theresa, we have to thank you for the lovely compliment.
RAY: Yeah. No one's told us we're "not old enough" for anything lately!
TOM: It's hard to answer this question without resorting to gross generalizations, Theresa. Which we're happy to do. So here goes:
RAY: Our theory is that men's relationships with cars are like women's relationships with men.
TOM: Look at the similarities. Is a man content to simply "have" a car? No. He has to be in constant communication with his vehicle so he always knows how it's feeling. He needs to know where he stands with the car. He likes to open the hood, look around, check the levels. He wants to know when something is wrong. He may even "sense" a problem before it's obvious. Then he'll want to "deal with it" right away, so it doesn't fester.
RAY: This essentially describes a woman's relationship with the man in her life, doesn't it?
TOM: And how does a woman treat her car? To most women, the car originally was selected because it was cute and the right size. What does she require after that? That it start. That's about it. The fact that the car is still there in the morning and starts up for her that day is good enough. If there's a little hiccup ... a little blue smoke, a little hesitation, a wobble in the front end, why worry about it? And if it gets so bad that the car stops running, she'll worry about it then. Otherwise, she'll ignore it and hope it goes away.
RAY: This is how men are in human relationships. Am I right, ladies?
TOM: Are we in trouble yet?
RAY: Oh, no. Keep digging.
TOM: Well, our relationship analysis would suggest that women are harder on cars than men, because they're not as aware of problems in their early stages, when they might be cheaper to fix.
RAY: But then you have to factor in the basic nature of men and women. Women, by their very nature, are gentler and less aggressive. That would suggest they're easier on cars.
TOM: While men are animals. We stomp on the gas, jam on the brakes, swerve between lanes and whack things when they don't work.
RAY: So who's harder on cars?
TOM: I don't know. But I know we just gave every man in America an opening to say, "You know, hon, if you paid half as much attention to your car as you do to our relationship, you'd never run it out of oil again."
RAY: And we've given every woman in America an opening to say, "You know, if you were half as sensitive to my needs as you are to your car's, I'd never have to ask you for anything again."
TOM: So, we've either solved the world's most pressing problems or started World War III.