Tom & Ray Wrench Out Their Retirement
By the time you read this, a collective sigh of relief from all of Harvard Square (and most of Boston) will have already deafened your ears.
Tom & Ray are ending their radio show, Cartalk, after 25 years of amusing and entertaining our fair nation.
Thank you Tom & Ray. For thousands of shows, hundreds of new insights, and two Ben & Jerry’s ice cream bars I never paid you for.
Looking back at our first meeting…
The year was 1996. The Olympics were catapulting Atlanta to it’s absolute zenith of popularity, and I had one of the most thankless jobs in all of metro-Atlanta.
I was a senior financial analyst for a mainframe manufacturer that was laying off older folks with a gusto usually reserved for recessions.
“Steve? What’s this?”
“Those huge numbers in red? In parentheses? That is your quarterly performance.”
“This makes no sense at all? Where are my revenues?”
“They’re being outsourced to India.”
And so it went. In between automating my own work and spending endless meetings with frazzled folks who were usually double my age, I visited cartalk.com.
Back then, banks and other investment firms were just beginning to get that mind altering buzz that comes with investing in unsustainable online ventures.
For those of you too young to remember the good old days known as The Clinton Era, the key back then was to first find a business that was guaranteed to fail. The larger and more arrogant the company, the worse the idea, and so it went.
Naturally, Microsoft turned their attention straight to Tom & Ray’s work. About a dozen folks of dubious distinctions were chosen by Bill Gates to build Tom & Ray a web site.
“I’m getting married. Go and find something to do.” – Mr. Gates likely told his underlings in Redmond, Washington who were getting awfully tired of watching Windows 95 crash on a daily basis.
Meanwhile 3,000 miles away, my boss told me, “I’m getting married. Go and find something to do. Oh, and don’t send any more financial reports until I get back.”
He never came back. So I spent the next six months visiting a bulletin board at Cartalk called Cafe Dartre. As well as reading various stories and reviews from folks who wanted to tell the world about their old rides.
Compared to endless meetings and making numbers dance on a computer, Tom & Ray’s website was time well spent. So in between the three hour walks I would take at a nearby mall, and the myriad paper airplanes I designed and tested for the amusement of my co-workers, I spent endless hours at Cartalk.com.
Tom & Ray’s unproductive work, became my job.
After six months of doing this, a dim flickering bulb finally shined on top of my head. “Steve. Why don’t you make the car business your living instead of the brutally boring world that is mainframe manufacturing?” I quit the job. Became an auctioneer. Started traveling the country, and finally, seven years later, had the chance to visit Tom & Ray.
I walked up a narrow walkway. Opened a door…. and there they were!
Perfect six-foot cutouts of Tom & Ray with a nearby freezer full of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream pops.
“Sorry we missed you!” was emblazoned on the cutout. The tired and haggard intern discussed the fact that the Magliozzi’s were too busy taking their sixth nap of the day and offered me an ice cream pop.
I took two. Called an auctioneer friend. Got drunk at a nearby bar, and finally did a sale the following day in Concord, Massachusetts. I never got a chance to say thank you.
So I guess a simple “Thank you” will do for me. As for the B&B, any memories of Tom & Ray? Feel free to share…
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My favorite call was a guy selling a 1965 Chrysler Newport. He couldn't stop telling prospective buyers about every little thing that was wrong with the car, and his friend Bob, a realtor kept telling him to say nothing, because people don't expect perfection in a 45 year old car. He wanted to know what to do. The response: Tom: Finally, an honest man. Ray: The salt of the earth. Tom: Which is why you're the wrong guy to sell this car. Ray: Yeah. Let that sleazeball Bob sell it for you. The reason it's my favorite is that I owned a '65 Chrysler Newport, and when I heard the show, my passenger was a golf buddy named Bob - who was a realtor.
caller: "Hi, I was calling about a problem I'm having with my '82 Camero." click and clack: "So... Donna (Donner)" The best advice they gave was when someone said they wanted to sell/trade their car while it was still worth something and their reply was 'if it's still worth something, why are you selling it?"