Scott Free

Scott Peterson

It would be nice if everything in life went as planned, but in my life it’s like a fishing line. It starts with a small snag and before you know it, it’s a bird’s nest.

This is the story of how a simple oil change devolved into an all-day project.

I had dropped the car off for an oil change and was picking it up when I noticed something on the car door. It was glob of grease on the outside of the door. I grabbed several napkins from the glove compartment and cleaned most of it off, but somehow in the process lost a nice pen I was carrying with me.

I spent considerable amount of time looking in the cracks and under the seat for it, but I never did find the pen.

What I did find jammed between the seats was a collapsible umbrella whose handle was somehow incredibly sticky, like something spilled on it. I grabbed a wet rag, presuming it was a spilled soda, but it would not wipe off. So my wife intervened and grabbed some acetone, fingernail polish remover, and that worked, but it dulled the handle, so I went looking in the garage for some Armor All vinyl cleaner.

It was there all right, but it was behind a zillion aerosol cans stocked on the garage shelf.

As I rifled through the shelf contents, I found six containers of Off! Insect repellant, in aerosol, pump bottles, family style, deep woods variety, dry formula and who knows what else — and all felt like they had about a half inch of fluid in them – nearly empty, but not quite low enough to throw them out without a guilty conscience.

Making my way further, there were four cans of WD-40, most missing their nozzle straw. And then there was more insect spray, for wasps and hornets (three cans), ant and roach killer, yard foggers, house and garden spray. It was like some horror movie where I was waiting for the swarm of locusts to attack and I was armed and dangerous.

And then there was the hardened car wax, the car upholstery cleaner, the leather seat cleaners, jugs of charcoal lighter fluid, bags of bone meal, spray bottles of window cleaner, gallons of windshield washer fluid, and so many cans of motor oil, all with a W on the label somewhere.

I am a little afraid to be writing this for fear that the Environmental Protection Agency is going to shut me down.

Will they be waiting to surround my house with yellow tape as guys in moon suits detoxify my garage?

I mean seriously, how many chemicals do I have stored in here anyway?

As I searched through the jungle of chemicals, I started throwing cans away until the local chapter of the EPA (my wife) arrived. That put a quick end to the discrete disposal plan.

Now all the cans are back on the shelf, and my wife is working on an elaborate plan to locate places that handle proper disposal of all these substances.

But, in the end, I did find my Armor All and it did a really nice job of cleaning my umbrella handle. It’s shiny and like new again and no longer sticky and it was nice to have had that on hand for situations like this. I had to hide the bottle at the back of the shelf before the chemical disposal police returned. Maybe she won’t notice it there.

While I was at work one day, my wife went to the garage to continue the inventorying of the toxic chemicals, only to find the push-button garage door opener not operating and the house locked up and her marooned the outside.

And where was I? Of course, I was 45 minutes away and had to drive all the way home to let her in the house, and back again.

Shortly after that, under strict orders from the local EPA, I had to drive to the hardware store to get another garage-door opener, so I could get my wife back into the garage, me out of the doghouse and the chemicals into a safe place.

Suffice it to say that the next time I get an oil change and if there is any grease smeared on the car door, I am to look at it, smile, and say, “Isn’t that nice!”

It will save me a lot of trouble. Now, if I could only find that pen, so I could write myself a reminder about that plan.

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