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Foreword to A Fine Day for a Drive, by Allan Janssen

Posted By on September 13, 2009

 Rick Cogbill makes me laugh.book_cover_VER3_R1 ThumbNail

That might sound obvious, given that he’s a humour columnist. But I’ve come to learn in almost 20 years of editing that few humour columnists are consistently funny. And when they are, they’re not laugh-out-loud funny. They’re just knowing-smile kind of funny. A select few are nod-and-chuckle kind of funny. Only the very best are spit-out-your-coffee kind of funny. That’s Rick…

When he proposed a humour column for Canadian Technician magazine, promising that it would be both entertaining and informative, I was skeptical. People told me it couldn’t be done. And even if it could be done, it couldn’t last. But Rick and his whacky band of characters have been making me spit out my morning coffee since 1998. You should see my office!

Yes, the situations he describes are ridiculous… but they’re also rooted in a strange kind of reality and are populated with a cast of characters that people can truly relate to. The well-meaning apprentice who has to learn everything the hard way. The grizzled old mechanic who’s seen it all. The blue-collar philosopher who surprises you with a fresh perspective on things.

There are no villains in Slumberland. Everyone has redeeming qualities. Even the customer who twists the truth to earn a discount, and the supplier who feigns ignorance about a duplicate bill. Slim Shambles – Rick’s alter ego – faces them all with weary grace.

The humour comes from a good place. Like most writers, Rick has genuine affection for his characters. He knows them. He’s had coffee with them – many, many coffees – and he tells their stories with a mixture of frankness and fancy. That his columns have been so well received is no surprise to me. He speaks lovingly of a profession that does not always get its due. Rick casts a warm light on the shadowy corners of the auto repair industry to reveal the heroic characters who are meeting life one broken car at a time.

Now I learn that his columns were just a taste of his unique imagination. The full meal – a veritable smorgasbord of fun and adventure – is here, in A Fine Day For a Drive. There is a bigger cast of characters and their playground has expanded beyond the walls of Slim Shambles Auto Repair. Those of us who have been waiting patiently to learn more about Slim’s back story, and about life in Slumberland, have already tucked our napkins and are ready to dig in.

This is a laugh-out-loud book that celebrates the believably absurd. Slim Shambles rides the lead car as grand marshal in life’s giant parade of fools. And I, for one, will gladly take my spot on the sidewalk to watch Basil, Tooner, Beanie, and the rest of the gang pratfall past.

 —Allan Janssen
Editorial Director, Canadian Technician magazine

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