I'm not really a car guy. I guess this should be said. I appreciate my car (Percival). I enjoy looking at classic cars (late 60's Corvettes & Mustangs anyone?), and on those rare occasions at which I have had the opportunity to drive a special car I have always been thoroughly grateful for the experiences. But, that being said, I'm not even going to change my own oil, much less try to do any sort of meaningful repairs. I don't have the tools, the patience, or the willingness to dedicate my time to such a project. So, it's certainly not the cars that draw me in to CarTalk. As I consider, I think what I've always really appreciated about CarTalk are the lessons that it teaches me about life. These lessons rarely come from the life advice dispensed by Click and Clack, funny though it might be, but from the men themselves. Here, then, are CarTalk life lessons worth learning:
1.) Spend your time doing what makes you happy.
It is simply the case that many, if not most, of us will never have the opportunity to have the 'perfect' career. Most of us aspire to something different, perhaps something bigger, something that seems better. While there are certainly times to strive for our desires, and to stretch toward a desired future, our wildest dreams may never come to fruition. Even so, there are many hours in the day (hopefully) beyond the hours that we spend at work. Without being too intentionally self-centered, it is important to ask ourselves, how can I spend my time in a meaningful way? Appearing on the radio once a week was certainly not a career for the Magliozzi brothers (although it certainly didn't hurt), but the whole phenomenon came into existence because they spent a little bit of time doing something that made them happy. Sometimes genuinely meaningful moments come into our lives through otherwise ordinary experiences.
2.) Always explore the possibilities.
In some ways, this lesson seems to contradict what I've just written. I genuinely believe that there are many instances in which one's dream career is entirely out-of-reach. Even so, if I've learned anything as I've read about Tom Magliozzi's life over the last day, it's that there is tremendous value in stretching ourselves, in trying something new. When he no longer felt fulfilled by his corporate job, Magliozzi walked away in order to open up a do-it-yourself garage. He may have been one of the lucky ones who seemingly accidentally stumbled into something that he really enjoyed, but even if he hadn't, their just might be value in his seizing the opportunity to try something different. While there are absolutely times when walking away might not be the course of action, there are always opportunities that should at least be considered. This is not a 'once-in-a-lifetime' situation either, life is never about the one thing. The goal of living is never to reach the unreachable star. Look around, see life, enjoy the possibilities. Even if the possibilities don't come to fruition, even if we feel stuck where we are, there is always joy to be found in the world.
3.) If you're worried about your vehicle's brakes, you probably shouldn't be calling a radio talk-show about it.
I'm pretty sure this should go without saying. Nobody likes going to the mechanic. Who cares? Brakes are important.
4.) It's never that bad.
How many times have I tuned in to CarTalk only to hear callers who think they have major problems just being laughed at by the hosts? In the moment things often seem bad, and that's okay. Often when things seem bad, things are bad. But even when things are bad, there are others who have gone through it and come out the other side. This doesn't make it seem less bad in the present, but this badness should never overcome hope. Hope springs eternal. Also, it's ok to laugh at other people's problems, but you probably shouldn't laugh at their faces. #schadenfreude
5.) Make yourself laugh.
I've always considered myself a comedian. Basically nobody else agrees. I'm cool with that. If I could give advice to any young comedian (read: anybody at all) it would be this, "Make yourself laugh." One of the truly marvelous aspects about CarTalk are the many (MANY) times during which the show comes to a dead stop because the hosts seemingly can't control the laughter that is bellowing out of them. What is interesting about these instances is that the listeners often sit in silence, probably rolling their eyes, because whatever started this hysteria was not really that funny. "Yeah, I get it, it was the ball joint all along..." Yet, even when I roll my eyes, even when I'm not in on the joke, these fits of laughter are among the most magical moments of any given show. Somehow, even when the joke is awful, or entirely non-existent, I find my face warping into a smile. For that brief time (or sometimes not at all brief time) the world stops in the face of sheer delight. The Magliozzis, it seems, do the show for themselves. Just as Andy Kaufman often refused to pander to audience desires and expectations, CarTalk exists in the purest form as two people entertaining themselves. The best performances are never actually performances to begin with. Life is funny. If anybody recognizes this fact, it's likely that others will also recognize it in them as well. Just laugh. Laugh a lot. Laughter is the best medicine (although penicillin isn't so bad).