Three Girlfriends and a Car Funeral

Jan 31, 1998

RAY: Good work. Ha! We're back. You're listening to Car Talk with us, Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers, and we're here to discuss of course cars, car repair, and the...

TOM: And the...

RAY: The new puzzler. Now I've had to use the same M.O. on this puzzler that I've used, maximum obfuscation, that I've used many times before. You may have to help me.

TOM: I will help you. I will jump right in.

RAY: All right. Long, long ago when he was just a lad, our erstwhile producer, Dougie Berman, had three girlfriends.

TOM: At the same time.

RAY: This before he was married I think.

TOM: No.

RAY: I think you are...

TOM: Oh.

RAY: He had three girlfriends, and he would juggle them so to speak. On Monday he would visit one, on Tuesday another, on Wednesday, the third one, and then he would repeat the process. On Thursday he would visit number one, number two, etc. etc. And each time he would make one of these visits, he would drive his car, but before he could drive the car, because it was a junker, he had to go through a little ritual. He would open the hood, and he would have to top off the coolant because he leaked coolant. He had to top off the power steering fluid. That leaked too. He had to fill up the oil because he was burning oil like crazy. He blew smoke out of the tail pipe.

TOM: Yeah, brake fluid.

RAY: No, I don't think he needed any brake fluid.

TOM: Transmission fluid? No.

RAY: Are you helping or hindering?

TOM: I'm trying to help you. I'm trying to obfuscate as much as possible.

RAY: No, no, that's all right.


RAY: Closes the hood, drives to girlfriend number one's house, and follows the same procedure every time he pulls into the driveway, and then he drives as far into the woods as he can.

TOM: Oh yeah.

RAY: So the other girlfriends won't see his jalopy.

TOM: Of course.

RAY: Which is quite distinguishable. He does this for girlfriend number one, and then on Tuesday for girlfriend number two, and on Wednesday girlfriend number three, but when he pulls into girlfriend number three's driveway, an interesting thing happens. Fire erupts under the hood. The thing bursts into flames.

TOM: Wow!

RAY: At which point, he jumps out of the car, removes his pants, and beats out the flames.

TOM: Yeah.

RAY: Then when the thing has finally subsided, he stashes the car, goes to her house, and tries to explain to her parents why he is coming to meet her with no pants on. So this goes on and on, girlfriend number one, no problem, number two, no problem. But every time he visits girlfriend number three, same problem, the car catches fire under the hood. He can't explain it. He takes this as an omen.

TOM: Yeah.

RAY: And dumps the other two girlfriends, and keeps girlfriend number three, because any girl that can set his pants on fire has got to be worth sticking around with.

TOM: Yeah.

RAY: Right?

TOM: I go with it. I'm with it.

RAY: So now you have all of the facts as obfuscated as they may be.

TOM: Yeah.

RAY: What is it embedded here in this little narrative?

TOM: So the question is how long is it going to take his wife to find out about girlfriend number three? Is that the question?

RAY: So to speak.

TOM: That's the question. I got it. I say she's going to find out about ten minutes after we leave the studio.

RAY: So what is it about his visit to girlfriend number three, knowing what you know, and only what you know that causes this conflagration under the hood and then ultimately in his pants.

TOM: Whooo, wow!


RAY: What is it about his visit to girlfriend number three that causes this conflagration under the hood and ultimately... in his pants?

TOM: Does it have something to do with power steering fluid and the shape of the driveway?

RAY: Exactly.

TOM: Does it?

RAY: You looked at my notes!

TOM: No, it just came to me.

RAY: Exactly right. I mentioned earlier in the story that he added coolant; he was leaking coolant. He was adding oil, but he's burning oil.

TOM: Burning the oil. The coolant is not going to extinguish the flame.

RAY: He adds power steering fluid.

TOM: Power steering fluid.

RAY: When he pulls into the driveway of girlfriend number three, he has to make a very sharp turn. He has a leak in the high pressure power steering hose...

TOM: Yes!

RAY: And when this wheel is cut all the way, the increased pressure of the system squirts it out, squirts it out onto the hot exhaust manifold, and that small amount of fluid -- vroomm... burst into flames.

TOM: Yeah!

RAY: And we know the rest of the story.

TOM: Now you know.

RAY: He takes his pants off etc. etc., and it was only because she had a driveway that had a much sharper turn than the other two.

TOM: Wow.

RAY: That he had to remove his pants.

TOM: And that's how Sip became Mrs. Doug Berman. Wow.

RAY: How unfortunate, huh.

TOM: Poor kid.

RAY: And who might our winner be this week Tommy?

TOM: Oh, I don't know. I don't know. Wait a minute. Here it is. The winner is Ed Klopton from Iowa City, Iowa.

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