Feb 13, 1999
RAY: Ha, we're back. You're listening to Car Talk with us, Click and Clack, the Tappet brothers, and we're here to discuss cars, car repair, and the, the new puzzler.
TOM: Yeah, OK.
RAY: Here it is. A few weeks ago an elderly woman customer came into the garage with her elderly car. I think it was, like, an '85 Lincoln Towncar. Huge.
RAY: One of these cars that should be accorded nationhood and have a seat in the UN General Assembly. Anyway, she's talking to Manny, the youngest of our technicians, and she's explaining to him what she wants done with her car. And of course I'm eavesdropping. And she says, there are two things that need to be looked at. One of them, she says, is that I need a tune up, and he's been instructed as have all the guys to ask, why. When someone says they need something why do you need it. And she says, well, she says, my mileage has been off. The engine seems to be laboring. The power's diminished, and I know I need a tune up. And he says, ah ha. And he says, OK. He says, how about the other thing. She says, oh. She says, my shift indicator is off. When I'm in park, it really says I'm in reverse. And when I'm in drive, it really says, I'm in two. And he says, ah ha! I know what's wrong with your car. He says, what's wrong is that you're not in the right gear, and you're in second gear and that's why your mileage is off and that's why the engine seems to be --
TOM: Sounds like it's laboring.
RAY: Laboring, and she says, au contraire, little piston-puss.
TOM: What do you know you young punk.
RAY: You, young squirt. She says, I can feel all the shifts. I start driving, and it shifts from first to second and then it shifts from second to third, and then if I stomp on the gas, it down shifts. And he says, oh. OK. Back to square one. He says, how do you know the mileage is off. And she says, well, she says. I check it all the time. And he says, yeah. But you're only getting probably seven or eight miles to the gallon with this anyway. Why bother to check, and how would you really know it were off? And she says, oh no. She said, every month I take a trip to visit my mother-in-law in New Hampshire.
TOM: This elderly woman has an alive mother-in-law?
RAY: I didn't say she was alive.
TOM: Oh, she just goes to visit.
RAY: And he listens and he says, OK, ah ha, and he says, yes. And she says, well, I noticed in fact on my return trip the last time that when I got back the thing seemed to be laboring. My mileage was terrible for the whole return trip, and I began to notice all these symptoms. And he looks at her. And he asks her a bunch of other irrelevant questions like what color blue is your hair anyway, and then he says to her --
RAY: Whereabouts in New Hampshire does your mother-in-law live? And she says, oh, I don't know.
TOM: She said, I didn't know. I didn't say she was alive.
RAY: She lives in North Crunchy Granola, New Hampshire. And he then asks, does she live on a dirt road? And she says, why, as a matter of fact, she does.
TOM: This Manny. Man. You should start calling him Hercule Poirot.
RAY: He's managerial material.
TOM: He is. God, he's good. Does she live on a dirt road?
RAY: And she says, as a matter of fact, she does, and it's a lousy dirt road with pot holes and I hate driving there. And he says to her, I know what's wrong with your car. You don't need a tune up. And one repair is going to fix everything. Drop in mileage, the poor performance and whole shebang.
TOM: The laboring, the shift.
RAY: The whole business. And he says, that's going to fix everything. And she says, go to it!
TOM: Yeah. What a guy!
RAY: And what did he learn from this last question that enabled him to figure out what was wrong with her car? Now, mind you. He hadn't seen the car of course.
TOM: It was parked outside.
RAY: It was parked outside. He hadn't really looked at the car. He was just interrogating her.
TOM: Just based on the answers to her questions.
RAY: Now if you think you know the answer --
TOM: His questions.
RAY: Well, the hint was that the gear shift thing was off.
TOM: That's a weird thing, it's weird!
RAY: It was weird, but it's a true story.
TOM: I bet. I never doubt that you would tell us something that wasn't true?
RAY: Every week! Whilst she was driving on that dirt road, because of the age of her car, something broke. And that something that broke, caused her gearshift indicator to be off, also caused her drop in mileage and her drop in performance. And what broke was the mount that holds the transmission up. And when the transmission broke, the transmission cross-member broke, it sat down on the emergency brake cable.
TOM: Oh, my --
RAY: The emergency brake was on --
TOM: -- God!
RAY: -- enough to make her mileage drop off, the power drop off, and of course because the transmission now was closer to the ground, the shift indicator was off. So fixing this one thing, and Manny figured it out all by himself.
TOM: And you, of course, you gave him a raise.
TOM: A pat on the back? No.
TOM: You said, Good job!
RAY: He got a lunch hour that day! Who's outwitted Tommy?
TOM: Wow, that is, that was a, one of the world's great puzzlers!
RAY: Well, the length: how was it for length?
TOM: It was very long! It was like, John Wayne's very tall!