I spent part of my week off doing one of the tasks that used to be fun when I was young and flexible but has become a reminder of how old I am: cleaning out the car.
It was a gorgeous day and I tied into the car, armed with the vacuum and Armor All. Three hours later, I was finished and done in for the day. The next day, I was moving like an old man.
It wasn’t always that way.
I recall spending many Saturday and Sunday afternoons helping my brothers clean the family car, then help with their detailing when they got their own wheels. Back in those days in a small town there was little to do, so the time went quickly.
I still smell the pine tree air fresheners and feel the smooth surfaces after waxing the car or using Armor All on the tires or interior.
I learned from my brothers and their friends that the ladies liked guys with shiny, pine scented cars.
Armed with all of this car cleaning knowledge, and after getting my driver’s license, I mustered up the courage to ask my father, the Chief, if I could use the car to take a girl to dinner and a movie in the neighboring town.
Surprisingly, the Chief agreed to my request, with one string attached — I had to clean the car. When I was driving, the family car was a burgundy 1966 Chevelle station wagon. Being a mechanic’s car, it had some issues — like no gas pedal. “Just put your foot on the tab the pedal would be attached to,” the Chief said, adding “it’s no big deal, but if you can’t drive without it, I suppose I could fix it.”
I knew better than to fall into THAT trap. The last thing a mechanic wants to do after working on cars all day long is to work on his own, without his tools. I decided the cure would be worse than the problem, besides I have big feet, so I would just fake it.
I commenced with the cleaning of the family car, starting with the driver’s side. I removed enough sand and gravel to find the two bolts that the bottom of the pedal attached to and I was able to snap the pedal back into place.
The rest of the archaeological dig went well that afternoon, and I even buffed some of the oxidized paint off of the hood. The car was clean, inside and out and I even found and cleaned the floormats that should have been used to keep that glacier’s worth of rock from dislodging the gas pedal.
After passing muster, I did the second most difficult thing — I called the girl for a date. She said yes and was polite enough not to make fun of the fact that I was driving a 10-year-old station wagon.
I later learned from the Chief that he hated the day his sons were able to buy their first car. Not because it meant extra hours working on them for free, he wanted his sons to be safe, but because it meant that he no longer had someone to wash, wax and clean his car.
There’s another thing I now understand about my father.
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