This post is dedicated to Lynn Soon Small, who is a woman after my own heart in oh so many ways. And my dad, who I only roll my eyes at because I am him incarnate.
Let me tell you about my ideal Saturday. I get up early. I wake up slow. I take the dogs for a walk and take myself for a run. I drink chocolate Silk soy milk and eat Nutella on three-grain sourdough with a banana on the side. I put on a mumu, turn on the radio, tune it to NPR and listen to ‘Car Talk.’ Yes, ‘Car Talk.’
For those of you who don’t know, ‘Car Talk’ is, at least in theory, a call-in radio show for people seeking helpful advice on problems with their automobiles. Much like the title suggests. But in reality, it’s much more than that. It’s an hour of life lessons and comedy served up by two brothers who know almost everything about cars and plenty about everything else.
Most of my friends know I’m a regular listener of NPR’s programming. Neal Conan and Robert Siegel could talk me to sleep every night of my life for the rest of my life and I’d be happy. I think Steve Inskeep is hot. ‘Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me’ makes life worth living. But ‘Car Talk’ is sort of my dirty little NPR secret. My affinity for public radio confirms my status as a nerd. And I embrace that. But ‘Car Talk’ pushes me into an entirely new realm, where book smarts meets automotive and vehicular knowledge and East Coast wise-cracking. Perhaps this just makes me MORE nerdy, but I like to think it gives me some points under ‘practical’ and ‘street cred.’ Regardless, I’m hooked.
This ‘Car Talk’ revelation might not be that shocking to most of my readers. But I know my dad is incredibly disoriented right now as he reads this. I have spent years, even decades, trying to show my father my disdain for Click and Clack. On Saturday mornings, while we ate breakfast around the kitchen counter, my dad would be guffawing at these nasally voices and wheezing laughs saying things like “what do you want to bet they say it’s the alternator? what do you want to bet?” I would roll my eyes (it was my signature move indicating parental annoyance for most of the 1990’s) and say something sarcastic and beg him to turn off the radio so that I could watch ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation.’ I was nerdy even back then.
But my dad didn’t give in. And why should he? Beginning when he married my mother and continuing with more intensity each time a daughter was born, my dad has been gracefully taking into account of the needs of the women in his life. In other words, giving in. Not because he had to under threat of death or anything, but mostly because he is smart enough and kind enough to pick his battles. And looking back, I can see he really only chose a few. ‘Car Talk’, however, was one that he was not willing to let go of. The last bastion of his foothold in the Clark Castle. He endured an hour of heavy sighing and teenage whining and enjoyed his program over the din of it all. But here’s the thing…
I was listening. And laughing. On the inside of course, only internal laughing would do when I was trying to get my angst across on the outside, it was the grunge era after all. But I liked the show. I liked the jokes, the Puzzler and even the advice about cars. I liked to listen to my dad laugh at Tom and Ray laughing at themselves. I was then and continue to be a terrible driver. And if you asked me what kind of car it was that rear-ended me I’d probably answer something like “blue with a Jesus fish thing stuck on it.” I know very little of the ins or outs of cars. But that show taught me a thing or two, namely that I don’t have to know everything about cars but I do have to know enough not to get screwed around with when getting mine fixed.
And so, it continues. When Dave first discovered this habit, he was highly annoyed. He couldn’t believe I would make him listen to such dribble and just WHAT was I laughing at so hard…and suddenly he was hooked, too. He hears what I hear: two men who love each other, their own jokes and cars. Somehow they have combined those loves into a career and a cult-following that makes us all envious of those who can make money doing something they would probably do for free anyway. And in addition to all the technical vernacular, I’m sure that’s what my dad loves as well.
Next Saturday morning think of me, holding my tea, laughing out loud, trying to think up a problem that would be worthy of calling and asking the Car Talk brothers. Think of my dad, holding his coffee, laughing out loud, trying to think of the answer to the problems of the callers to one-up the Car Talk brothers. At that moment, on Saturday morning, the universe is in balance. Or as close as it can get.