Question of the Day: What's the Funniest Thing That's Ever Happened to You In a Car?

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago
question of the day whats the funniest thing thats ever happened to you in a car

Like all of TTAC's writers, Glenn Swanson came to us as a reader with a "real job:" IT administrator for a Connecticut public school. As a public servant, Glenn specializes in stories where personal liberty and automobiles intersect– sometimes literally. He wrote our three-part Presidential Primer, investigating White House hopefuls' stances on auto-related issues. He also has a taste for true crime, such as this piece about a stripper who "borrowed" someone's identity to buy a 2005 Maserati. In all cases, Glenn brings righteous indignation and a sardonic sense of humor to the keyboard; he's also the only contributor whose OCD rivals mine ("this is the final version"). Glenn's wife emails: "About 3 weeks ago, he ended up in the hospital and has been diagnosed with a form of Leukemia. Therefore, he won’t be able to write for TTAC for awhile as he focuses on his recovery. He does have his laptop with him in the hospital and is keeping up to date with the site." I reckon Glenn doesn't need any of that "fight the good fight" stuff. I bet he needs a good laugh. So, what's the funniest thing that ever happened to you in a car? For me, it was a cop shining his flashlight on some hash wrapped in aluminum foil. "What's that?" he asked. "Aluminum foil," I replied. "Oh," he answered. Happy times.

[for more of Glenn's work Google "glenn swanson"]

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  • Joeaverage Joeaverage on Jun 26, 2008

    While in Italy I had a series of relatives to come visit. Why not - great opportunity for them to see Italy and me to have some folks from home over. My parents surprised me my sending over my sister and one of her friends. They were in college at that time. I was surpised to to see them come alone. We planned a big trip from Naples to Venice with stops along the way. I was a single guy making $14,800 a year and living out on the economy (barracks were full and I didn't want to live in them anyhow) so I had expenses. It also dictated what I drove - i.e. not a new or newish car. I drove a '72 Super Beetle with a 1200cc engine. First year curved windshield. Would be a '73 here. This was my replacement for the wrecked Autobianchi. I had bought this car after spying it on a locale used car lot. The owner explained to me in Italian that this car had to be purchased with a parts car sitting next to it. I think he was trying to do me right b/c the green car had registration issues but the blue car (which had the nicer paint) had mechanical issues. Buy both, make one good car. Which I did. Except not quite the way the salesman wanted it to happen. His price to me was too high. His young son had tried to price it to me for $1K less but the salesman had interuppted. I was getting the higher foreigner price as usual. I was a after all a "rich American". In America we all live like Hollywood stars and vacation at our beach houses that we use the family Lear jet to visit. Remember that $14,800 income??? I came back with an Italian friend. while I sat in his car out in the parking lot, he got a price of about $1K lower than my price. I waited in his car and then walked in just in time to sign the papers and lay down my cash. The salesman was not enthuised. There was the Italian way to do everything and if you paid attention long enough your cost of living would drop sweetly. FWIW the same thing happens near the military bases in the states. Travel to another county for big purchases and let your friend with the civilian haircut do the talking... It took 2 weeks of tinkering to get this car sorted out. I wasn't a mechanic at the beginning but in the end I learned SO MUCH and the car ran like a sewing machine albeit with a little less power than your mother's Singer sewing machine... A few months later my sister and her friend came over and we started up north - in the heat of July - w/o air conditioning of course. Smart Italians travel early and then rest in the shade for a few hours or eat a long lunch in a cool restaurant during the hottest part of the day. When it cools down, they return to the streets and highways. Smart people. Not us dumb Americans. Gotta get there as fast as possible even if we suffer from heatstroke. Stopped at the USAF Camp Darby near Pisa to set up our tents and see the Leaning Tower. As I exited the tollbooth of the autostrada the clutch began slipping. Uh-oh... I was carrying used spare everything parts so I figured no problem. No reason to ask a local to point me to a good autoriccambi (FLAPS) and buy new parts for cheap. Nope, we'll just use the other 30 year old clutch I have with me. The girls rested and I setup shop at the far end of the parking lot. Drop the engine (30 mins), replace the clutch (30 mins) and reinstall the engine (30 mins). All done with five wrenches, a screwdriver and two scissor jacks. No problem. Only it was a problem. A big problem. It was 2PM when I got started and I was trying to put the engine back in at around 4PM. And trying. And trying. And trying. The engine would not go back on the tranny. WTF? It got dark... The girls tried to help. We were hot, dirty, hungry and tired. WTF? A German tour bus driver came over and asked if we needed "something". He spoke no Italian and no English but he wanted to help somehow. He motioned for me to wait and suddenly while I was laying under this little Beetle a 3 story tall tour bus idled right up to the back of my car. I started scrambling out b/c I tought he was going to push the car with the bus!!! No, he idled his bus, set the brakes and turned on all the lights! I had the power of the sun parked behind me and I could almost see the bones in my hand! It was shortly after he lit up my world that I could see that the lower two studs that pass through the bellhousing were slightly bent - I had allowed the engine to sag too far and their "bentness" ruined the natural alignment of the engine to the input shaft of the tranny and it could not slide into the clutch disc. 3 mins later the engine was in and I was tightening the hardware... I was so THANKFUL! We cleaned up and went to dinner and ate more wonderful Italian food...

  • Joeaverage Joeaverage on Jun 26, 2008

    Parents came over to visit me in Italy. They exited the airport terminal to find machinegun-toting Carabinieri guarding things. Over the years there have been a few incidents in the Rome airport. One was a massacre in the airport back in the 80s. 10-15 people got killed by gun toting wackos. You've got to understand my parents. They don't go anywhere. Never been west. Until this week. Never been up to the New England states. Their vacations always take them to the same places. When they want to really shake things up they go an extra 10 miles down the beach and try a new hotel. When they arrived in Rome it was a shock. NOTHING but me was familar and it had been over a year since they had last seen me. First thing as we exited the airport I saw a early 70s Fiat 500. Told them that my car was broken and I had borrowed it. Told them it would do 50 on the autostrada so not to worry, we'd get home before midnight... If you don't know what a Fiat 500 is, think half-sized Beetle with 18 hp and two cylinders. Neat little car and alot larger inside than you might imagine. Families of five Neapolitans will fit inside. Of course a Vespa will carry a family of four too... After I got my laugh we headed south. My mom was really concerned about the Beetle when I bought it. Figured it was a death-trap being so small and having the engine in the rear. We were getting passed by smaller cars than the Beetle at a good 30-40 kph faster than our 110 kph and she finally admitted that the Beetle wasn't so small afterall. Another thing you need to know is my parents are type-A personalities. The unknown is not a comfortable feeling. Ignorance might be bliss to some folks but not to them. And, they like to be in control. In Italy for the week or so that they were there was all those bad things at once. They really coped well and I think they had a good time but I also don't expect they will ever return to Europe. They are funny people - don't like organized tours but too scared to travel alone. We took a side trip to Caserta Vecchia (old and small hilltop town literally overlooking modern Caserta). The whole town is only a couple dozen buildings with streets built for carts rather than cars. Insert the Fiat 500 here. The perfect car for the location. Caserta Vecchia overlooks the Caserta palace where George Lucas filmed the interior shots of the palaces in his Star Wars movies - the newer trio of the series. Anyhow somehow I locked my keys inside the car. Siesta had started and people had mostly retreated to the relative cool of their homes. I kept this info from them so their sight-seeing would not be overshadowed by the knowledge that the keys were in the car. Even if I had retrieved them, they would have been distracted by the knowledge that a minute ago we could have been stranded. It was really humorous to me and I knew in the worst case I could break a window and get the keys. I had good spare glass on my parts car. After our walk around town and to the old tower I revealled the problem to their expected discomfort. I explained my problem to a passing woman who told me to just go into her restaurant and get anything I needed. Just go right in, it was unlocked and she walked away in the other direction. Wow. Nice people there. I did and with the aid of a long bread knife was able to "slimjim" the lock open. That Beetle was SO easy to break into. I returned the knife to the kitchen, rinsed it off and away we went. 2 days later while I was pilotting my doctor friend's turbo diesel Peugeot down the austrada at 170 kph my mother demanded to know how fast we were going. I held out as long as I could but confessed that it was about 105 mph. Don't let your mother ride behind you. I had painful fingernail marks on my shoulders that night...

  • Joeaverage Joeaverage on Jun 26, 2008

    Took a bag full of shock absorbers and Macpherson struts through Heathrow airport shortly after Lockerbee. The x-ray machine operators were not amused... I'll admit they did look bad on the screen... Still - they let me take them on the airplane as checked luggage. Of course I missed my flight in the process. Their retribution? They put me on an AlItalia flight were everyone from the age of 4 and up smoked and nobody except me had blue eyes or blonde hair. I knew right then if it was hijacked I was the guy who was going to be "dispatched" first as an example to the others...

  • Joeaverage Joeaverage on Jun 26, 2008

    Carried a spare VW engine (complete) on the roof rack of my Beetle about 40 miles. Folks prob thought it was a spare in case the original engine crapped out. REALLY messes up your center of gravity... Returned home without incident.