Stuck between a Ditch and a Divorce!

Jun 15, 2009

RAY: This was submitted by Marty Kaponowski. Here it is:

'It was a dark and stormy night. I was late getting out of work and I was hurrying a wee bit. Truth be known it was my wife's birthday and if I got home too late, well, need I elaborate?

'I had decided on a short cut, a seldom used dirt road in the middle of nowhere. I took a turn a little too fast and found myself in the fight of my life trying to avoid crashing into a tree. When I finally came to a stop my car had three wheels touching the road, but the right front corner of the car was resting on the underbody and the right front wheel was dangling over the roadside drainage ditch about a foot from the mud and the twigs below.

'I wasn't about to call my wife, obviously. And if I called for a tow truck my wife would problably have had the divorce papers filled out before he could even hook me up. I was on my own and I knew it. Boy, I wished I'd had a four-wheel-drive truck but I didn't. Instead I had a front-wheel-drive Corolla with one of those front wheels in the ditch.

'Now everyone who's ever been stuck on ice or mud or whatever knows that the wheel with the best traction gets none of the engine's power with all of it going to the other wheels. So when you're on ice, the wheel on the ice spins like crazy and the wheel on dry pavement just sits there. And in this case the one dangling over the ditch was the one with no traction. What to do, what to do?

'I opened the trunk and looked for inspiration. I thought about using the jack in some clever way, but I didn't have one. I opened the toolbox that I keep in the trunk and I found the following: a can of Bumble Bee tuna, a screwdriver, a pair of vice grips, a roll of electrical tape, a flashlight and a tube of hemorrhoid cream and no Fillipo Berio olive oil. So the question is which one of these did I use and how?'
RAY: Here's the answer. He used the vise grips.

TOM: Let me think about it for a few hours.

RAY: How about a week? Well, since the dawn of humankind, early - since homo erectus - front brakes on vehicles have had flexible rubber hoses going to them. In order for the wheels to turn left and right, you can't have a rigid brake line going, you have to have a flexible tubing.

TOM: Of course.

RAY: With the vise grips, Marty clamped off or restricted the flow of fluid to the left front brake - the one that was on the pavement. And then he got in the car, started it up and stepped on the brakes.

When he stepped on the brakes he stopped the right wheel from turning because pressure is going to the right front wheel but no pressure is going to the left front wheel. And even though some pressure is going to the back wheels, he managed to get enough power going to that left front wheel for which there was no braking action and that got him out.

So he actually reversed the curse or the differential. And backed himself out of the ditch and made it just an hour and a half late for that special dinner with his wife and she's now divorcing him, but that's another story. Anyway, do we have a winner?

TOM: Yeah. The winner is Julie Page from Minneapolis, Minnesota. And for having her answer selected at random from among all the correct answers that we got, Julie is going to get a 26-dollar gift certificate to the Shameless Commerce Division at, with which she can get our brand-new, stainless steel Car Talk water bottle.

RAY: Congratulations, Julie!

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