Dougie's Stolen Clothes

Feb 23, 2013

RAY: Our producer, Dougie Berman, is walking home from work late one afternoon. It’s about 2:15, and as he approaches his house, he notices that there is a car parked in front of his house with a man in the driver’s seat, with the engine running.

Then Dougie sees someone coming from the direction of his house, carrying what looks like a huge pile of rags. He opens the back door, and throws the rags into the backseat, and the two men speed away.

So Dougie goes into his house, plays with the dogs, takes a nap, et cetera. Several days later, he notices that all of his clothes have been stolen.

He calls the police to make a report. The police ask him if he noticed anything about the two guys. He says, “No, they were average height, average build, average weight.”

They ask about the car. He says, “It was an '89 Corolla, midnight blue. The engine was running. I noticed that it had Massachusetts plates, and there was a dent in the trunk.”

The police said, “We'll get back to you.” Weeks go by.

Finally the police call him up and say, “We have the car and two suspects, we just need you to come down to the station and identify them.”

Dougie goes to the station, but he doesn't recognize the men, because he's not that attentive to details. So he goes to the parking lot, and sure enough, there's an '89 midnight blue Corolla with Massachusetts plates, a dent in the trunk, and the engine's running.

He says, “These must be the guys.”

But then he remembers there was one thing that he forgot to tell the police about the car.

He walks over to the car very quickly, looks inside it for one second, walks away and says, “That's not the car. These aren't the guys.”

So the question is, what did he notice?

RAY: Here’s the answer. Now you noticed when I stated the puzzler, Dougie was behind the car. He saw the car pull away from him. Obviously, he wouldn't have noticed a dent in the trunk. He wouldn't have noticed it had Mass plates.

TOM: Yeah.

RAY: But there was something that he did notice when the car pulled away which he forgot to tell the police, and when he walked over to the car to look at it at headquarters he had to actually go and look inside the car. And when he did that, he noticed the car had a manual shift.

Because what he had seen when they pulled away was the momentary flash of the reverse lights as the shifter passed from park, through reverse and neutral into drive. And with the engine running, if the guy had been sitting there in neutral, he merely would have shifted into first gear, and taken off.

TOM: Of course.

RAY: If he were sitting there with the engine running in reverse, the reverse lights would have been on all the time. If the reverse lights didn't work, then he wouldn't have noticed them blinking. He could only have noticed them blinking if they were working, and if the car were in park, and that made, forced it to be an automatic which it wasn't.

TOM: Wow!

RAY: Do we have a winner this week?

TOM: Wow, that is good! The winner this week is Byron Ellis from Baton Rouge, LA. Congratulations, Byron!

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