Leroy has us on the move at last.
Some of you may remember that our car came to an untimely end last month. That prompted a lot of research for a new vehicle – price, mileage, and all the other crucial factors that go into acquiring a new family chariot. And once we finally made that fateful choice, all our friends wanted to know the same thing.
“So, what are you going to name it?”
Ooh. The big questions.
As I’ve mentioned before, naming a car is not an insignificant decision. We’ve known several in our life from the Battered Blue Buick – christened after a major Kansas hail storm – to the E-Z Bake Oven, which was seemingly designed to magnify heat. Mozart was a Sonata whose life ended too soon, while Harvey Dent was hit in the driveway on its third day with us, temporarily giving it a polished look on one side and a mix of torn metal and a shattered turn signal on the other.
So there’s a bit of history involved. Which is why, as with certain baby naming traditions, we took several days deciding.
It was Mom who put us on the right track, shortly after we’d clarified to a friend that the car was dark brown and not black.
“Well, all I can think of right now is Encyclopedia Brown references because of the color,” she said.
And that’s when it clicked.
Like all the best names, “Leroy Brown” has multiple meanings. In an odd way, it has a tie to when I first started driving in the early 1990s. One week, the local oldies station was even more predictable than usual, and would play Jim Croce’s “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” just after school let out, filling the speaker’s with that infectious rhythm.
But Leroy “Encyclopedia” Brown is a tie to my childhood. Some of the first books I ever got under the Christmas tree involved the mysteries of Idaville’s greatest boy detective and his friend Sally Kimball. The pattern was always the same – a setup that took five minutes or less, a break at the crucial moment to see if you’d spotted the error or inconsistency that would unravel the case, and then a quick flip to the back of the book to check your answer.
In retrospect, maybe that’s how the seeds of a journalist got planted in my head in the first place. All the key questions were there: did the facts as presented make sense? What was the person really saying? And why did anyone trust Bugs Meany after all this time? (OK, maybe not that last one.)
Call it curiosity. Or skepticism. Or just thinking things through instead of taking them at face value.
By any name, it’s an attitude we still need.
Plenty of dubious claims get made every day, and they’re easier to spread than ever. Most of them are about as transparent as one of Bugs Meany’s schemes – if you bother to take 30 seconds to check. But many people don’t.
Maybe it’s because the person saying it has an important title and a famous name.
Maybe it’s because it was bundled with a cute infographic and a provocative headline.
Maybe it’s just because it seems to confirm what the person already believes – why check what you “know” to be true?
Always check. Always confirm. Even when – no, especially when the claim seems to boost your own side. It’s frustrating when you’re wrong. But it’s downright embarrassing when you’ve committed to it, and a lot harder to pull back from.
If a rolling brown Hyundai helps me keep that in mind, so much the better.
Just as long as it doesn’t end up like the other Leroy Brown. You know, the one that looked like “a jigsaw puzzle with a couple of pieces gone.”
Let’s stick to cracking cases – OK?