Wednesday, November 5, 2014

No More Laughter.....

.... at least not the raucous, back of the throat, ear splitting cackle that emanated from Tom Magliozzi every Saturday and Sunday morning in my car.

Little girls, and then bigger girls, would groan when I switched the radio from Backstreet Boys to NPR's Car Talk, two men talking about auto repair.  Little Cuter's reassurance went a long way toward calming them down.  "Just listen.  They are really really really funny. Just listen."

And so they did.  They sat in the back seat of my Audi station wagon as I ferried them to Ukiah and Sebastopol and Rohnert Park to play soccer, to stop at In-and-Out Burger, and then to drive home.  All day, both days, every weekend for years and years and years, I spent surrounded by high pitched girl squealing and low pitched men's laughter. 

Those are some of my favorite memories.

Little Cuter and I spent an hour or so in the offices of Car Talk in Cambridge, or our fair city as the Magliozzi brothers called it, .  Just as they described it on the radio, the office looked over Harvard Square at the coffee drinking and the juggling and the wandering.  The shelves were filled with bumper stickers and pins and cartoons and gifts sent from far and wide to Tom and Ray, whose influence stretched from sea to shining sea. 

G'ma couldn't stand the laughter; it sounded false to her.  To me, it was throwing back my head and letting go of all constraints  It was being in the moment, totally present, and relishing every instant.  There were corners of my brain that seemed to come alive when I heard him howl... hidden corners where laughter had been resting, just waiting to be coaxed out into the open. 

I smiled when the banjo music came on to announce their imminent arrival.  I smiled when Hello, you're on Car Talk was followed by Kathy with a K and a Y or Alan without all those extra L's; it was important that they knew exactly to whom they were speaking.  I smiled even harder when they asked if the husband who refused to use his turn signals in order to save energy, or the wife who refused to rotate the tires, or the parent who wanted a safe-but-dorky car for his kid happened to be available to speak on the phone. 

These reluctant invitees were usually hilarious, if somewhat embarrassed.  Tom and Ray never made anyone feel uncomfortable for long, though.  The beauty of the show was the kindness married to brilliance married to a realistic appreciation of the absurdity of the world.  The Magliozzi's were never mean spirited.  They were honest - Oh, boy, is he in trouble now! - and they were helpful - take it back to the shop and tell them we said to check the timing belt - and they were cautious - DO NOT drive that anywhere but to the dealership RIGHT NOW. 

They were a trustworthy source of information in an arena filled with obfuscation and ignorance.  They were willing to tackle the car-related love interest issues - she hates my convertible because her hair gets messed up was one of my favorites - and the family squabbles - you are on a cross-country drive with your MOTHER-IN-LAW?!?!?!? - with a gentle, teasing hilarity that I've never found anywhere else.

They'd interview their mother for Mother's Day, and laugh about their ex-wives and their children and the foibles of NPR... and there was never anything mean spirited about it.  They were honest and they were funny and they will be missed.


  1. Tom is such a loss. Now we know why they stopped taping new shows in 2012. I am hoping our NPR station will keep airing the archived shows as a tribute to him, at least for a while.

    1. That was my first thought, too, Laura. They stopped with no real explanation. I guess the truth was too sad to share.

  2. A beautiful, loving tribute. Thank you!


Talk back to me! Word Verification is gone!