From Rags to Britches

Sep 26, 1998

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 New Puzzler.

TOM: I can hardly wait.

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

TOM: Yeah. Pretty perfect.

RAY: OK. I'm going to set the scene.

TOM: Was it a dark and stormy -- no.

RAY: No, here it is. Our producer, Dougie Berman, is walking home from work late one afternoon. About 2:15, and as he approaches his house, he notices that there is a car parked in front of his house whose engine is running. And in the driver's seat is a man and while this car is sitting there he notices someone coming from the direction of his house carrying what looks like a huge pile of rags. He opens the back door, throws the rags in the back seat. He jumps in the car. The driver puts the thing in gear and they speed away.

TOM: Speed away.

RAY: Speed away. They take off. He goes into the house --

TOM: Probably the Board of Health coming to get his laundry.

RAY: He plays with the dogs. You know, 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 he explains everything. And he's standing there in his underwear, because what? All of his clothes have been stolen and he can't -- it's weeks now. And they asked him if he noticed anything about the guys. He said, no, they were average height, average build, average weight. You know, I don't know. What about the car? Do you know something about that? He said, well, 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 they said, we'll get back to you. Weeks go by. Weeks.

TOM: During which time he stays home from work because he's got no clothes. That was that two-week hiatus?

RAY: Yes.

TOM: Yeah.

RAY: He spent two weeks in hiatus. Weeks go by. The police call him up and they say, we have the car and two suspects and we just need you to come down and do so --

TOM: Identify your underwear.

RAY: So, they have no underwear. They have the car and the two suspects and he 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.

TOM: Midnight blue.

RAY: Midnight blue. Mass. plates.

TOM: Dent in the trunk.

RAY: Dent in the trunk.

TOM: And the engine's running.

RAY: His -- is it running, and he says, these must be the guys.

TOM: Hoo hoo. I'm going to get my clothes back.

RAY: And he 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 --

TOM: That's not the car.

RAY: That's not the car. These aren't the guys. What did he look at? One second -- just one second. A quick look inside and walked away and he said, can't go to work for another two weeks. I won't have any clothes.

TOM: OK. I know the answer.

RAY: You do? You may know it.


RAY: Now you noticed when I stated the puzzler, he was behind the car. He saw the car pull away from him. Obviously, he wouldn't have noticed a dent in the trunk.

TOM: Oh.

RAY: 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.

TOM: Yeah.

RAY: That he forgot to tell the police, and when he walked over to the car to look at it at headquarters --

TOM: Yeah.

RAY: -- he had to actually go and look inside the car. And when he did that, he noticed the car had a manual shift.

TOM: Shift?

RAY: Because what he had seen when they pulled away was the momentary flash of the reverse lights --

TOM: Ah!

RAY: -- as the shifter passed from park, through reverse --

TOM: Oh!

RAY: -- and neutral into drive.

TOM: Oh!

RAY: 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 --

TOM: On!

RAY: -- on all the time.

TOM: All the time!

RAY: 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! It just goes to show you how you have to be very careful before you accuse someone.

RAY: Exactly right!

TOM: Wow!

RAY: Well, that was, there was a moral in the story. I didn't mention that.

TOM: Yes.

RAY: But that was the moral of the story.

TOM: The moral is be careful.

RAY: Be careful.

TOM: Because those two guys laid a beating on Dougie that he's not going to forget for such a long time, and yeah, we do have a winner. It's Florence De Lucia.

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