The Big Q: Click and Clack
Then women began to call, and fewer do-it-yourselfers. We still get those other kinds of calls. Now they call the shop [the Good News Garage]. Somehow they find out that I’m still there three days a week. If they call and I’m not there, the guys say, “Oh, Ray will be in on Thursday. Call back then.” So I get the droners: “I got a ’68 Dodge Diplomat, slant-six, and the number-five spark plug keeps blowing out.” [Laughter.]
A lot of times people call in [with an automotive question] and they really want to talk about something else. Today there was the girl who asked about giving a cat a tranquilizer. She and her husband were driving from the Berkshires to Boulder, Colorado. He was going to drive a U-Haul and tow her car. She was going to drive his car with their two cats. She wanted to know if there were any tranquilizers we could suggest for the cats because she thought the trip would be hard on them. Over the years we’ve often ventured into areas about which we know nothing.
Tom: When someone asks a question, we have to give an answer!
Ray: Right. Women can say, “Well, I don’t know,” but men have to give answers. It’s male answer syndrome. One time a guy called in about electric brakes on a cattle trailer. I didn’t even know what a cattle trailer was.
Tom: We didn’t know what electric brakes were!
Ray: But we gave him an answer. And then a week or two later we got a letter from a guy named Andy–that was the only way he identified himself. He wrote a very articulate letter about how it’s possible for two people to know less about a topic than one person. [Laughter.]
Tom: If one person were fielding that question, he just would have said, “I don’t know.”
Ray: But while [Tom] is asking the caller, “How heavy is the trailer, and how many cows are you going to put in it?” I’m thinking, How could they possibly work, electric brakes? And then you start formulating some BS.
Tom: I still don’t know what electric brakes are. Do you?
Ray: I still don’t know what a cattle trailer is! [Laughter.] People who call from rural areas definitely have a different take on things. They tend to be more self-reliant and resourceful. It’s not unusual to find them still fixing their own cars. Remember that guy Dave from Bemidji?