No matter how close we come to egalitarianism, men will always bring up the strained relationship between a woman and her car. The old stereotype of a woman putting her hand out of the car window to dry her nails instead of making a signal to turn will haunt us to our graves.

A group of men were talking recently when one told the story about his wife, Anna, who duly reported to him that her brakes were "mushy." He drove her car around the block and pronounced the brakes were perfectly normal. Anna still was not convinced. She told her friend Ethel that her brakes were "mushy," and Ethel said she had the same experience with mushy brakes until she put high-test ethyl in the gas tank. The men got hernias from laughing.I find that story perfectly reasonable. In fact, it all sounds too familiar. I had a "ping" in my engine a while back and told my husband about it. He gave me that look - you know the one I mean, like he's standing over a puppy who just missed the paper. Then he said, "I'll check it out."

When he came in, he said, "The ping is not under your hood. It's your seat belt flapping against the seat."

"You weren't listening," I said. "A ping is never IN the car. A ping is always UNDER THE HOOD! I know a seat belt when I hear one. A flapping seat belt is a blump."

"Just drive it around for a while," he said tiredly.

"Oh sure, and just let the ping turn into a major gekump?"

"Do I have to remind you," he asked, "what happened when you took the car in for a . . . what was it you called the noise in the trunk?"

"A boompt."

"Whatever. We paid $102 to find out that a can of creamed corn was banging against your spare tire."

I guess what really ticks me off is the superiority men exude about cars. Don't tell me the male species is born knowing about transmissions and brake fluids. Anyone who believes a man has an affinity for things mechanical has never ridden down a highway in a rental car with a husband who releases the hood when he thinks he's turning on the lights.

I'll concede that women may not have the right terminology, but we recognize a boompt or a mushy when we hear one. And let's face it, men still come running to women when the only way they can get the sticker price off the window is to break the glass.

About the ping under my hood? All I know is it went away right after I had my car washed and waxed.