From Rags to Britches

Feb 10, 2018

RAY: Now, this puzzler is lengthy and complex and obfuscated and full of useless information. So pay attention.

Our producer, Dougie Berman, is walking home from work late one afternoon. About 2:15, as he approaches his house, he notices that there is a car parked in front of his house with the engine running. And in the driver's seat is a man and while this car is sitting there Dougie notices someone coming from the direction of his house carrying what looks like a huge pile of rags. The man opens the back door, throws the rags in the back seat and jumps in the car. The driver puts the thing in gear and they speed away.

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

TOM: Took him a few days to notice.

RAY: So, he calls the police to make a report, and they come down. You know, the inspector comes down and says, well, what happened? And Dougie explains everything. And Dougie's standing there in his underwear, because what? All of his clothes have been stolen and he can't -- it's weeks now. And the police asked him if he noticed anything about the guys. Dougie said, no, they were average height, average build, average weight.  Then they asked, what about the car? Do you know something about that?  Well, Dougie said, I happened to be a student of the automotive field, and I did notice that it was an '89 Corolla, midnight blue. I noticed of course that the engine was running. I noticed that it had Massachusetts license plates, and there was a dent in the trunk. And the police said, we'll get back to you. Weeks go by. Weeks. 

Finally, the police call him up and say, we have the car and two suspects and we just need you to come down and identify your stuff.

Dougie comes down to the police station and he looks at the two guys, but he doesn't recognize them because he's not that attentive to details. He goes up into the parking lot, and sure enough, there's the car. There's an '89 blue Corolla, midnight blue, Mass. plates, dent in the trunk.

And Dougie remembers that there was one thing that he forgot to tell the police about the car. He walks over very quickly and looks inside the car for one second, and walks away and says that's not the car. These aren't the guys. What did Dougie look at? A quick look inside and walked away and Dougie said, can't go to work for another two weeks. I won't have any clothes.

So that's the question: What did Dougie look at?


RAY: Now you noticed when I stated the puzzler, Dougie was behind the car and he saw the car pull away from him. So he saw the dent, and he saw the Mass. plates.  But there was something else he noticed when the car pulled away that he forgot to tell the police.

So when he looked inside the car at the police headquarters, Dougie saw the car had a manual shift, and knew right away this couldn't be the car. 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 thieves had been sitting there in neutral, they merely would have shifted into first gear, and taken off. If they were sitting there with the engine running in reverse, the reverse lights would have been on the whole time.

And if the reverse lights didn't work, then Dougie 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 means the car he originally saw was an automatic.


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