Car Talk wasn’t about cars. In fact, if you listened, you knew that the guys kind of hated cars, or were at best ambivalent. They loved people and, as brothers, they loved each other. Perhaps more than anything, they loved to laugh.
And this was the beauty of Tom and Ray, Click and Clack, Car Talk. We were invited to more than just “cars and car repair.” We were invited into their family, their friendship. For so many of us, Tom and Ray were siblings exemplar, offering the kind of familial camaraderie and love we rarely experience in our own lives.
Moreover, Tom and Ray loved their audience. (Tom would try to guess the spelling of the names of almost every caller based exclusively on where they lived. Katherine was a K in some parts of the country, a C in others. Often he just mangled the names and they’d all have a good laugh.) Each caller was welcomed into their world like an old friend, and so, by extension, were we. When Tom said, “Look us up if you’re ever in Boston,” you suspected he meant it.
Tommy, as his brother Ray called him, laughed hardest of all. Often I’d find myself laughing out loud, something I rarely do, not because the jokes were that funny, but because Tommy’s laugh was just plain infectious. He’d laugh so hard, he’d be gasping for air, and I’d find myself wiping tears from my eyes. It was cathartic.
When the guys retired the show recently, many of us knew it wasn’t so they could relax on a beach in Florida. Tom’s speech had become a tad slurred in later episodes, he’d ramble a tiny bit more than usual, and there was the sense that Ray was answering more of the difficult automotive questions. Still, today’s news is a sucker punch for sure.
Through all the cornball jokes and hokey schtick, Tom and Ray Magliozzi offered a respite from the wearying, prurient, sadistic noise that masks itself as news and entertainment today.
And so when I hear people saying that we’ve lost a national treasure, I’m inclined to agree. Maybe it’s a sign that I’m getting older, but these kinds of good people seem to be fewer and farther between. And I wonder, when did we collectively decide that going through life jaded and outraged was better than being open and joyful?
I’ve had my own share of losses, including brothers, so I can’t help but feel a deep pang of sadness when I consider what Tommy’s brother, Ray, must be going through tonight. On the other hand, Ray got to spend nearly 70 years with one terrific friend, brother, and all around good guy.
Not a bad bargain when you look at it that way.