He actually hated working in any world. Later on, when we were doing Car Talk, he would come in late and leave early. We used to warn him that if he left work any earlier, he’d pass himself coming in.” (Ray Magliozzi)
Car Talk was never about cars. That was just a cover story. It was about two brothers, the one twelve years younger idolizing the older one. They were men of good will, self-deprecating humor, and who even knew the difference between a fuel injection system and carburetor, but would never brag about that.
I listened for years as I could, and when podcasting started, never missed an episode. I noted one time a few years back that Ray ran an entire show while Tom sat silent. I thought he must have been under the weather. Sometime after that, Ray started, rather than ended the show with “Well, you’ve wasted another perfectly good hour listening to Car Talk…” and then sighed as he plunged into the week’s episode. Something was wrong.
Tom had Alzheimer’s. Typically that disease takes about ten years to kill a person. So they’ve been faking it for a good long time. And now we know why Tom did not drive. Also, as Ray reminds us, that’s why Tom could never remember last week’s puzzler.
They retired in 2012 and rebooted Car Talk as re-runs, and they could do that because they were always careful not to be topical. By staying away from current events, they stood out among all shows on NPR by not lying to us. At the end of the re-runs their voices sounded patched in, current, and there would be topical references. But at one point I realized that Tom’s laugh had been electronically spliced into that part of the broadcast, and that Ray was working alone. NPR liars did indeed penetrate the studio overlooking Harvard Square in their fair city.
Oh well. So it goes. Car Talk was the best thing ever on NPR. They’ll continue with Best of Car Talk and I will continue to listen. What, I have to wonder, becomes of the staff members left behind? What now for Irasmus Bedraggin, the head of working mothers support? Or their brake tester, Carson Delake? The gal in charge of repeat business, Lucinda Bolts? Staff tailor Hugh Jass? Will they find other work?
Unlikely. There’ll never be anything like it again.