The Big Q | Click and Clack from Car Talk
The topic that probably comes up most is relationship disputes: “My husband insists on burping the car when he puts gas in it.” The guy thinks that if he pushes the car up and down as he’s adding gas, he can squeeze in another couple of gallons. The woman asks, “Is this what he should be doing?” There’s always some kind of wager riding on it.
I will say we’ve had more fun with the women callers over the years than with the guys. The women have no inhibitions. They’re not expected to know anything about cars, so they’re not restrained in what they say. Guys think they’re supposed to know stuff, and they can be kind of quiet sometimes.
The better calls are generally the ones where there’s no expectation of the caller’s knowing anything. It’s fun to kind of draw the information out of the caller. And the women aren’t afraid to look foolish. They’ll make noises; it’s always good when you can get someone to make the noise the car is making. There’s no question that when we first started doing it, all the questions were from guys, and we weren’t having any fun. Now we are.
Tom: Back then, they were all doing stuff to their own cars.
Ray: Right, that’s the way things were. The garage we had then [Hacker’s Haven] originally started off as do-it-yourself. Tom and I had envisioned that we’d stand there in white lab coats, rocking back and forth on our heels, nodding approval or shaking our heads: “No, no, no, don’t tighten that bolt too much or you’ll break it off.” We thought we could run the operation from afar. Our biggest challenge was going to be how we’d wheel out the wheelbarrows full of money. [Laughter.] What a great idea, right? These people come in; we give them a little warmth, some electric light so they can see, some expertise. We don’t get our hands dirty. They do the work, and they pay us.
Tom: It was a big place. And cheap, because it was a dump. It’s not there anymore because they tore it down. [Laughter.]
Ray: It was condemned by the city. [The garage is now in a new location.] After a while we realized a couple of things: Number one, we weren’t going to get rich; number two, we couldn’t wear the lab coats because it turned out we had to help. I mean, we had some great customers, but we also seemed to be a magnet for every nincompoop, misfit, and moron in town. They seemed to think that being under our roof would give them some kind of knowledge. They would come in, and even if they didn’t have this knowledge, they thought it would be imparted to them by us, or if they screwed up that we would be there to fix it.
We never left before 11:00 at night. There was not one night I got home and caught Johnny Carson’s monologue, and that came on at 11:30. I was so tired when I got home that I couldn’t even take my clothes off. My wife wouldn’t let me sit anywhere. I had to sit on a plastic thing on the living-room floor, and I’d fall asleep there. I’d wake up in the middle of the night, disrobe, and take a shower before getting ready to do the whole thing over again. We killed ourselves, but we laughed our butts off.
Tom: Remember the guy who jacked up his Lincoln Town Car from the oil pan? There was oil everywhere. [Laughter.]
Ray: Gradually the garage evolved into a regular repair shop. And the show kind of evolved too, because the original shows were all guys in their driveways who were taking something apart and they couldn’t get it back together. We’d walk them through it step by step. It was great for that one person; it was boring for everyone else. And it was boring for us.
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