Why would my husband listen to his little brother when he is NEVER right?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Mar 01, 1995

Dear Tom and Ray:

My husband and I really enjoy your column. I have a story for you about brothers and cars. My husband's brother John has two older cars. The transmission went on his favorite beater, so he had to do some "minor" repairs on the other heap to get it running again. It's a 1982 Buick LeSabre, and it needed headlights and a starter. John has very little knowledge of engines, but procedes to start dismantling parts to extract the starter. After a few hours of not really knowing what he's doing, he calls Roger (my husband) and asks for help. My husband is not a mechanic, but he's done some repairs, and has basic common sense. So he helps John get the starter out and goes with him to buy a replacement, and together they put it back in. John (with no sense) telling Roger (common sense) how to do it. Roger likes his little brother, so he listens and does as John says, crossed wires, misaligned screws and all. Of course, the car won't start. Roger comes home and tells me the story, and I ask him why he listened to John, if he knew John was wrong? He shrugs. Next day, Roger goes back and reconnects the starter as it should be and the car starts. But why didn't he do that in the first place? Is brotherly love that deep, or is this a "man thing?" Please clue me in.

TOM: I can totally sympathize, Dawn. I like my little brother, Ray, but he's wrong most of the time, too. I don't know why I keep listening to him.

RAY: The reason you listen to me is that even though I'm wrong most of the time, I'm right more often than you are, because you're wrong all the time.

TOM: The truth is, men communicate better when they're grunting and groaning. Most men think--deep down inside--that sharing their feelings makes them sissies. And they don't want to be sissies. So they figure if they're torquing head bolts and repacking wheel bearings, who could possibly question their manhood? So under the hood, they feel free to share their true feelings about things. In fact, if you listen carefully under the hood of a car, you can usually hear two men talking about fear, vulnerability, acceptance, and pure love.

RAY: And there's historical precedent for this. In the old days, cavemen would discuss these things when they were clubbing a wooley mammoth, or moving a big rock.

TOM: So, you see, this is an ancient communications ritual, Dawn, and it would be a bad idea to interupt it. If the two brothers don't have this precious time together under the hood--and letting John screw up is just Roger's way of extending that time--they may never be able to speak to each other.

RAY: Or worse.... they may start looking for things to fix around YOUR house.

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