2016-06-08 / Opinions & Letters

Midwest Memo


I washed my car by hand the other day. I gathered together a hose, a bucket of warm soapy water, a brush and some rags. And I went at it with gusto.

Usually I go to the self-service public car wash and spray the car with water, then attack it with the “foaming brush.” I do this with a limited amount of quarters, a limited amount of time and a great deal of anxiety. When the alarm blasts announcing I am on the last 60 seconds of the cycle and the car is still half full of pink suds, I freeze, then shift into fast speed, and then I race around the car spraying the suds off the car and usually onto my pants.

This time I went the oldfashioned backyard route and took my time. In particular, I really gave those bugs on the front grill some elbow grease.

When you wash your car by hand every nick and dent make themselves known. And this time around, I discovered my old sedan is mighty dinged and dented - more-so than I realized. There were creases on the trunk and pings here and dimples there, plus random swipes of paint from other cars. There was also, on the back windshield, a label from a parking garage I haven’t parked at in many, many years.

There the label was stuck in the upper left corner, a faded yellow rectangle with a bar code and a parking lot address. It must have been on that back windshield for years. But it had surely gone unnoticed by me. Hidden in plain sight best describes it.

So there I was with a label that wasn’t accurate, slapped on my car by someone who had no authority to do so and I was seemingly oblivious to it... literally for years.

The writer in me says there is a metaphor attached to this obsolete and unauthorized parking lot label I continue to sport day in and day out on my windshield.

How often do folks accept for themselves, or assign onto others, labels that are simply inaccurate, unauthorized or just plain unwanted?

How often do these labels go unchallenged?

So now my task is to find where I’ve hidden those razor blades - in order to scrape the darn thing off.

* * * Soggy

I went to get my shoes shined yesterday.

I used to go to a shoeshine stand where the guy always criticized me for how I abused my shoes. It was painful to have to pay for his service and tip him and on top of that listen to his opinion on my lack of shoe care.

I’ve found a new place.

But yesterday even the new guy broke from his tradition of silence.

“Where have these shoes been?”

Saturday granddaughter Phoebe played a soccer game and Deb and I attended along with daughter-in-law Erin.

We cheered Phoebe on from the sidelines as the field of 6 and 7 year olds went at it.

The thing was... it rained Saturday. I mean it poured steady.

We stood under big umbrellas and still managed to get absolutely soaked. The little kids, the referee, the coaches - they got it even worse.

I had some business that morning so I was sporting my dress shoes - in the rain, in the tall grass. What a mess.

The funny thing was, the rain and the miserable conditions for being outside - these just highlighted how much we all wanted to be together.

My mother used to say that the best moments in life do not come labeled - that they just happen and slip by. I somehow think one of those moments registered with me under dark rain clouds, in drenched conditions this past Saturday.

The shoes shined up just fine. I tipped the guy despite his question.

All is well.

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