Car Talk Steele - Part III
Date: Monday, June 25, 2001
Lauryn Poynor <>

Car Talk Steele - Part III


Lauryn Poynor

[Car Talk Puzzler - Rocco and Throckmorten Locked in the Trunk 5:52]

RAY: I think it's time to come up for air after that mind bending puzzler. Our number is 1-800-332-9287. Hello, you're on Car Talk.

MILDRED: Hello. Car Talk? I finally got through. Am I on the

RAY: Loud and clear.

MILDRED: Your phone system is lousy. I was cut off more times than than a pair of old Levi's.

TOM: Sorry about that. We're getting an upgrade.

MILDRED: And that phone jingle from your sponsors spells trouble with a capital 'T.' My old cronies at the I.R.S. would love to chat with your friends at Dewey, Cheetham, and Howe about that 'audit busters' ad. My old boss used to say the shysters always come out of the woodwork at tax time- [sound of dial tone as phone disconnects]

TOM: Oops! Lost another one. Oh boy! I.R.S., eh? On the
trail. I think you'd better wake up our esteemed producer Dougie Berman and tell him it's time for Plan B.

RAY: You know he doesn't like to be disturbed while he's soaking up rays in his tanning bed. Though he'll need to make those plane reservations before Uncle Sam gets wise. They say the Cayman's are lovely this time of year. Or any time. Except hurricane season.

TOM: Pry him loose, I think he's done. As a matter of fact I
think his goose is cooked. Let's take another call. 1-800-332-9287. Hello, you're on Car Talk.

MILDRED: This is Mildred 'you'dbetternotdisconnectmebuster'
Krebs calling from Los Angeles.

TOM: Special Agent Krebs. I thought we'd lost you there for a moment. Darned Bell Atlantic. Before A,T,&T broke up we didn't have these nagging problems. So, Miss Krebs, uh Mildred, how can we help you?

MILDRED: Well, you see I have this problem with my license.

RAY: Say no more. We understand. Law enforcement can be so
overzealous, as they say here in Our Fair City. What's the
beef? A few too many extended stays in a no parking zone? Some incidental contact with a lamp post? A high speed chase through the precinct parking lot?

MILDRED: I'll admit to the parking tickets but that's not the real story. You're getting warm with that high speed chase hint. It's my P.I. license. I've been trying to brush up on my driving. I work for a detective agency and you never know when you'll have to tail a slippery suspect or rush to the scene of a crime.

TOM: So, do you drive for this agency? I thought you worked for the I.R.S.

MILDRED: Not any more. I'm a P.I. now or will be one of these days. I work in administration but I'm trying to get my investigators license. The licensing board recommends you take a specialized driving course and learn safe ways to tail suspects, avoid accidents, and that sort of thing.

RAY: So right now you're behind a desk, but you want to be behind the wheel chasing down the bad guys.

MILDRED: Two weeks ago I would have said yes. Now I'm not so
sure. My car is having a few second thoughts, too.

TOM: What car do you drive?

MILDRED: A 1963 Dodge Dart.

TOM: Be still my heart. A fellow enthusiast. What a good
year! What a car! There'll never be another like my 1963
convertible, 'Black Beauty.' To heck with the naysayers like my older brother. I can tell you're a woman of taste and
refinement. Maybe we could meet some night at the 'Cafe Dartre' over a bottle of Chardonnay.

RAY: Yeah. And swap tow truck stories. Don't listen to him.

MILDRED: Sure. What's your home phone number?

RAY: Miss Krebs is obviously under the influence of carbon
monoxide fumes.

MILDRED: Speak for yourself, buster. Though, I gotta be honest, I've always thought the car was a piece of junk.

RAY: Though she still has occasional lucid moments.

MILDRED: I inherited it from my ex-husband after the divorce. It was his last act of revenge. He always moaned about how he was squeezed in the courts. So he left me with the lemon. It's kind of an ugly yellow. You can see it coming for miles. And hear it, too.

RAY: In other words when you drive down the road vultures circle above in "stranded motorist" formation.

MILDRED: If the mercury is above 90 I take the bus.

TOM: It can't be as bad as all that. Though the Dodge Dart does have its endearing little quirks. 'Dartrian' philosophers refer to them as 'motifs.'

RAY: Otherwise known as factory defects. At least other drivers know you're coming. That's what defensive driving is all about.

MILDRED: That's why I'm calling. It's this driving school I've been attending. I'm no expert, but I think they're all bats.

TOM: As in bloodsuckers - or just a little crazy? What kind of stuff have they been teaching you?

MILDRED: Well, the instructors insist that we use our own cars, so that we can transfer our skills to our everyday driving. The first day of class they set up those big orange cones and we had to steer around them.

RAY: I hope they gave you lots of clearance in that Dart. Like one or two hundred yards between.

MILDRED: No such luck. The heap doesn't even have power
steering. The best I could do was aim. If I'd been bowling it would have been a perfect strike.

TOM: You hit all of 'em?

MILDRED: I didn't complete the course. One cone got stuck under the car and then the engine conked out.

RAY: So, correct me if I'm wrong, through dogged persistence and natural talent you managed to knock over more cones than a sneak thief at a Baskin-Robbins.

MILDRED: You said it. That course wasn't so bad. At least it
wasn't that dangerous. What really made me wonder if I was cut out for this was the lesson on 'emergency braking techniques.'

RAY: In a Dodge Dart? That qualifies as an emergency.

MILDRED: We drove out onto the track and they had this fake town built around it on both sides. While you were driving these obstacles, like, um cardboard cars and townspeople, would pop up and you'd have to swerve or brake to avoid them.

TOM: Yeah. The F.B.I. and D.E.A. use that basic concept. Not
for driving, but to train shooters. To pick out the good guys and bad guys. It's called a Hogan's Alley.

MILDRED: I call it a disaster. I might have missed one or two of 'em but I'm not sure. I know I hit the cardboard boy scout and the little old lady. And the blind guy with the white tipped cane.

RAY: Yikes!

MILDRED: And the poor little girl with the kitten..

RAY: Uh-oh.

MILDRED: Yeah. Pancake city.

MILDRED: I think the Chevette was still standing, though.

TOM: Darn. You missed it? So close but yet so far.

MILDRED: It was traumatic. They even had sound effects. Screams, explosions.. I though the effects were all fake until I hit that last obstacle. It burst into flame!

RAY: Jesus. I'm afraid to ask. What was it?

MILDRED: A Ford Pinto. They'd rigged something behind the
cardboard, I don't know what. All I know is when I hit it I was getting faint from the smoke and my tires were on fire.

RAY: That's scary stuff. Not to mention dangerous. Your
instructor has a mean streak. Or a death wish. Was he in the car with you?

MILDRED: Yeah. Before we started they rigged up this front and rear padded roll bar thing in my car and special safety
harnesses. We had to put on crash helmets and driving suits made out of some weird material.

TOM: Nomex?

MILDRED: Beats me. It was itchy. I still have a rash all over my - um, never mind.

RAY: Probably was Nomex. It's a composite fiber, flame
resistant. Firefighters and race car drivers wear it. Well, at least they used some basic safety precautions. Though, if
someone strapped me into a 1963 Dodge Dart and aimed me at a
fireball I'd begin to suspect a little madness in their method. Did you check out the credentials of this school? What about the instructors?

MILDRED: I just picked them out of the phone book. Their ad said they were very safety conscious and worked closely with law enforcement. I found out later that they meant Kojak and Starsky and Hutch.

TOM: They're all stunt drivers?

MILDRED: Yeah. And ex-race car guys. One of my classmates was a caterer on the set of 'Smokey and the Bandit.' She says the guy who taught us braking techniques doubled Burt Reynolds behind the wheel. He does kind of look like him, without the toupee. I should have known he was a flake when I caught him doing wheelies in my car when I went to grab a sandwich.

RAY: Wheelies? I've got a bad feeling about this.

MILDRED: You said a mouthful. You know that stunt you see in
the movies where the car rolls over sideways on two wheels to go around parked cars or to fit down an alley?

TOM: I want to meet this man. He did that in a Dodge Dart?
He's not only certifiable, he's a genius.

MILDRED: I think he's a fruitloop. And a wacko. And I want my money back. I'm just not Mario Andretti material, or even Steve McQueen. These guys are nuts. Who knows what damage they've done to my car. And they know where I live. I don't want to come home and find an Indy pace car doing laps in my living room.

TOM: At the very least, your suspension, tires, and brakes are probably shot. The suspension is probably the most expensive of the three. Luckily, it's a traditional Dodge torsion bar design, not too difficult to work on.

RAY: Here's what I think you should do. Still have friends at the I.R.S?

MILDRED: A few of the old timers, I guess.

RAY: While you're out on the course with your instructor just drop your I.R.S. connection oh so casually into the
conversation. Say that you've been tipped for a special
undercover assignment, to catch big time cheaters. If he looks nervous, then you've got him hooked.

MILDRED: No problemo. I still know the drill. I can always tell when they have something to hide.

TOM: Hide, eh? [clears throat] That's reassuring. After your
stuntman is good and worried, ask your old government pals to do drive bys of the premises at all hours in a well marked Department of Treasury vehicle. If that doesn't scare them into coughing up your dough and fixing your car's brakes and suspension then there's always the contingency plan.

MILDRED: What's that?

TOM: That driving school sounds like a lawsuit waiting to
happen. Whiplash city. Physical and mental trauma on wheels.
We don't keep Dewey, Cheetham, and Howe on retainer for nothing. For a gravy train opportunity like that, they'd probably even give you a cut.

MILDRED: That's OK. Just my money back and my car fixed. And a summer vacation in the Cayman Islands.

RAY: Ooh. Cayman's. Bad idea. How 'bout Fiji? I'll bet they'll spring for it.

MILDRED: Suits me.

TOM: Keep in touch. Glad we could help.

MILDRED: Thanks, you guys. Why didn't I think of that?

RAY: Now that the phone line's free, I think we'd better give our producer that heads up, just in case.

TOM: You can never be too careful with the I.R.S. I think it's time for a musical interlude.

[{Song selection} Old Dodge Dart by Tabasko Kat 2:23]
To Part IV