Laughing with Tom Magliozzi _lowres


Editor’s Note: Tom Magliozzi passed away last week of complications from Alzheimer’s disease. He and his brother Ray’s longtime NPR show, ‘Car Talk,’ ended two years ago. How good was it? WRKF airs reruns twice every weekend — Saturdays at 10 a.m. and Sundays at noon.

It didn’t matter what was going on in your life, when “Car Talk’s” Tom Magliozzi laughed, you laughed too.

You couldn’t help but feel connected to him, to his brother Ray and to listeners who called the show.

Tom Magliozzi wasn’t jokey like a stand-up comic, or snarky like a talk-show host, or polished like an actor in a movie.

He simply stumbled on the humor in listeners’ daily lives, elevating it to something universal and infectious. When Tom laughed, Ray laughed, the callers laughed and we all laughed.

We laughed at descriptions of beat-up jalopies because they reminded us of ones that used to sit in our driveway.

We laughed at familiar-sounding, car-ownery truths: ignoring mysterious thumps until they grew into frightening rackets, roadside duct-tape repairs, the indispensable bottles of brake fluid and power steering fluid in the trunk.

The Magliozzis revered dedicated owners of decades-old cars and eventually solved their mysteries.

Like most listeners, my “Car Talk” connection was personal and dated to the early 1990s. A recently divorced dad, I’d make an hour-plus drive from Thibodaux to Baton Rouge on Sunday evenings to bring my young daughter Kathleen home.

We loved listening to the show, but I dreaded the end because it meant another two weeks before I’d see Kathleen again.

In a small stroke of cosmic serendipity, WRKF used to air “Car Talk” on Sunday evenings, making our drive not just bittersweet but something we looked forward to.

We were such devoted listeners, while visiting Boston we called on the Magliozzi-owned auto repair shop in Cambridge where we shook the gracious, grimy working hands of Ray Magliozzi. “I’m never washing this hand,” Kathleen said afterwards.

She’s 26 now with a college degree, a good job and a promising future in the state of Tennessee.

I hope she always remembers “Car Talk” and those drives, how we laughed our way up Bayou Lafourche, past bare and crumbling Cajun cabins, through smoldering sugar cane stubble — always cracking a window to savor the sweet smoke — then up and over the Sunshine Bridge, into the bustling traffic of Interstate 10 and headlong into the gathering Sunday-night darkness over Baton Rouge.

God, how I miss those drives.

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