The Hunt for a Lone Stick Shift

Oct 21, 2017


RAY: This puzzler was sent in by Ben Hayes, and he says it's a true story. Well, it probably was until I monkeyed around with it. So it's based on a true story.

I was in the market for a new car a few years ago and I decided early one Saturday morning to go do it. I wanted a Toyota Corolla, and who wouldn't, considering their stellar reputation and all that. So with that in mind I headed for the biggest, baddest Toyota dealership in the county. I figured they'd have the best selection and probably the best prices too, right? So I pulled up to the dealership in my clunker and the salesman, sensing an easy sale, met me in the parking lot. In fact he practically tripped over himself to get to me. And while he was pumping my hand vigorously, I told him I wanted a new Corolla with AC and power steering; the color didn't really matter, but I wanted manual transmission.

"You do?"

"Yeah, yeah, I do."

"Sheesh, we don't sell manuals at all. Practically all the cars we sell are automatics. We may have one or two on the lot. But -" and I sensed he was trying to get rid of me - "but our computer system is down this morning and the only way to find one is to go out into the lot and walk up and down the rows."

So I said, "Let's go for it!"

Well, I couldn't believe how many Corollas they had. Together we walked down a long row of Corollas. When we looked to the left there was a sea of rear bumpers and tailpipes. And when we looked to the right, more Corollas, these showing off their headlights and grilles. While I leisurely walked between these two rows of cars, the salesman bounced from one to another, looking in the windows to see what kind of shifter each car had.

And he tried to do it pretty efficiently, in that he would stand between two cars and he would look into the driver's window of one car and he'd look in the passenger window of the other car, so he was killing two birds with one stone. And then he'd run in front of me and run to the cars parked on my right. And he'd do the same thing, back and forth, back and forth. I, on the other hand, never got closer than 15 feet to any of these cars. And from my vantage point, there was absolutely no way I could possibly see into any of them. Yet at one point I said, "Oh, there's a stick shift."

The salesman walked up to it and said, "You're right! How did you know that?"

And the question is, how did I know that?


RAY: Here's the answer. I knew it from the window sticker.

TOM: Yes you did.

RAY: The window sticker lists all the equipment in the car. Now at that distance, like 15 or 20 feet away, I couldn't possibly read standard shift.

TOM: But you could see the big mileage numbers.

RAY: Exactly. I could see the city mileage and the highway mileage. And all the automatics were the same, whatever they were, 27 and 34. And then when we got to the stick-shift car, it was 28, for example, and 36. And I knew it was a --

TOM: Just a slight difference.

RAY: Just a slight difference, a little better. And I knew that that car couldn't be an automatic, but it had to be a stick shift if it was a Corolla. Pretty good, huh?

TOM: Not bad! 

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