Franz Kafka’s Garage (back page of Car and Driver) fields a tricky question:
If a half-ton pickup neither weighs, carries, nor tows a half-ton, what exactly makes it a half-ton pickup?
That’s kind of like asking why you’re reading the April issue of Car and Driver in March — we’re not entirely sure. Sometime, long ago, half-ton pickups could haul half a ton, and magazines came out during the month written on the cover. The pressures of competition resulted in earlier newsstand dates and more capable pickups.
Inasmuch as I was reading the April issue of Car and Driver in February, I suspect Kafka’s gotten himself out of sync again.
And it gives me an opportunity to bring up once again the old Mad publishing schedule — last detailed five years ago — which flew in the face of everything everybody claimed to know about periodicals.
Today Mad comes out once a month, but you know founder William M. Gaines would never have countenanced such a thing. Comics in general tended to be pulled before their issue date, and Mad indeed had begun its existence as a comic, but Gaines viewed by-the-book scheduling, insisted upon by the Postal Service if you expected to keep your second-class mailing permit, as he did everything else: something to be avoided if possible, and if not, to be screwed around with. In the Gaines era, Mad, officially, was published “monthly except February, May, August and November”; after Gaines’ death, but before switching to mere “monthly,” the statement was amended to “monthly except bi-monthly for January/February, March/April, July/August and October/November.” Both of these phrases neatly obscured the truth of the matter: a new issue of Mad appeared every forty-five days, a period for which there is no standardized description. What’s more, despite Kafka’s raving above, Mad went to a lot of trouble to make sure that no issue was ever on sale during its official month of issue.
On the other hand, Kafka’s next stupid question drew an answer almost snappy enough for Al Jaffee:
My mom’s car is breaking down, it has no air conditioning, and my sister wrote on the ceiling and tore on it, too. What does she do?
First off, no more wearing pants in the car. That should fix the air-conditioning problem. It will also help your mother feel liberated and free-spirited, which should take her mind off the damage to the ceiling. A lack of pants could prove troublesome in the event of a roadside breakdown, though, so for a long-term solution, she should probably pay for the needed repairs or buy a more reliable car.
Emphasis added, mostly because my spouse at the time once attempted to make that selfsame point to me.