It’s sticky, it’s brownish-black, it’s gooey, it’s hot…And I never realized until today how much I really and truly despise it. In Chicago, Memorial Day weekend actually doesn’t mark the unofficial beginning of summer; oh no, we have an entirely different season that takes the place of summer here and it’s called Road Construction. It’s almost like some sort of manual labor fairy came overnight and dropped big, heavy machinery, trucks and obnoxious people wearing even more obnoxious neon vests (who are really, really good at making you stop so they can very slowly move a truck across the road when you’re in a hurry) all over the Chicago Area.
One such road that’s seeing a summer facelift this year is a “short-cut” road that I take every day to get to my office. There is a big river that winds around between a few of the suburbs here, so there’s very few short-cut roads that will take you from one major thoroughfare to the other – Most of the time, you’re just kind of screwed and stuck in endless traffic. So, I’m thinking I’m ridiculously smart for discovering this little cut-through to shave some minutes off of the commute; it really wasn’t even a deterrent when I noticed the aforementioned big, heavy machinery, trucks and obnoxious vest-adorned people taking apart the road last week bright and early every morning.
Until this particular sunny, 80-degree morning, that is. It wasn’t until I got to work and had been busy catching up on some things that someone walked by and jokingly (I think) asked me if I’d killed somebody on my way to work. Confused, I didn’t think that that was the nicest way to greet someone after a long weekend, but I hesitantly laughed along and briefly wondered if he was somehow able to tap into the Illinois Motor Vehicles’ database and see how many tickets I’ve REALLY gotten. Were they on to me?! Were there inconspicuously-placed Wanted signs with my driver’s license picture all over the Northwest Suburbs?! A peek out of my office window confirmed my worst fear – There was a brownish goo sprayed all over the passenger’s side of my car, thicker on the rims and around the undercarriage but still visible all the way up to the door handles – I HAD killed someone on my way in!
A quick reality check and a brief internal head-count of all of the neon vested folk I’d passed on my way in assured me that, no, I actually hadn’t killed anyone but they just about killed my car. It dawned on me that the big, heavy machinery had been to put asphalt on the road and, instead of closing down the road for the morning or perhaps detouring all of the morning commuters, the Village of Cary decided to instead let us all drive over the fresh asphalt and tar that had been poured right from the trucks to the concrete and then right onto my car. Even then, I wasn’t concerned until I spent my coveted lunch break taking my car through the car wash and thusly having a near panic attack as memories of a certain episode of CSI: Miami and Final Destination (where people meet gruesome ends in the dark privacy of a car wash) flitted through my mind, only to discover that the tar was still firmly stuck in sprays along the side of my car. And then, just to add a little salt to the open wound, the skies opened up and it rained steadily for about thirty minutes right after my lunch break. You ever get that feeling that you just flushed ten dollars down the toilet?
Anyways, that aside, I knew when I came home it was time to Mean Business. The tar was coming off the side of my car TONIGHT, or else. Or else what, I’m not quite sure, perhaps a strongly-worded letter would’ve landed on the Public Works department’s desk at the Village of Cary, but dammit, it was coming off. Now, it’s no secret that I’m a bit of a stranger to manual labor and I try to work on this, I really do, but obviously my first thought was to sit in the car in the carwash and not to put some of my own elbow grease into it, so now I was getting irritated. After all, I’d worked all day and sometimes, especially at the beginning of the week, it’s nice to just come home, eat some amazing white chocolate fudge from your long weekend in Wisconsin and throw your feet up.
However, I roll with the punches and dutifully got all of my washing supplies ready when I got home. I threw on an old pair of sweatpants with an old tank top and, walking around barefoot and with old sunglasses on, I’m pretty sure I couldn’t have looked more white trash even if Dog The Bounty Hunter and his wife were standing there helping me wash the car. Before coming home from work, I had Googled something along the lines of “ways to get tar off of your car” and came up with several interesting results. The most feasible, and safest-sounding considering I am NOT a car person, involved thickly spreading mayonnaise over the affected areas and then rinsing it away – Something about the oils and ingredients in mayonnaise softening and breaking up the tar, making it easier to remove (Ew – Makes you kind of think twice about that dollop you’ll add to your next hamburger, right?). So, I didn’t mind that it was over eighty degrees or that the sun was beating down on me as I squirted mayonnaise into my bare palm and slapped it over the entire passengers’ side length of my car. I didn’t care that I was beginning to smell like a hot-dog or that people were literally slowing down and doing double-takes as they drove by. I ignored it all without a single thought, determined to just get the icky substance off of my not-even-one-year-old car. It wasn’t until I heard the all-too-familiar and telltale crack of a can being opened that I turned, shaded my eyes and glared at the house across the street. The neighbors were in the garage, drinking beers and apparently watching the far-more-entertaining-show of their idiot neighbor rubbing Kraft’s Lite Mayonnaise all over the side of her car.
Holding my head high, I went inside for a few moments and emerged with an old towel, a bucket of soapy water and Girlfriend’s carwash glove, which is literally a glove with a pad/buffer on it. I even carried the garden hose around from the backyard by myself and, after fighting with it for several minutes in which it kept tangling up and my powerful spray was reduced to a pathetic dribble, involving me stomping barefoot back over to the other end of it and tossing it around angrily, cleaned that car like it was worth a million dollars.
And you know what? I’ll be damned if that mayonnaise didn’t actually work and most of the tar wiped away between Girlfriend’s carwash glove and a good spray of the hose! Sure, some of the more stubborn bits lingered, but my car admittedly does look ALMOST back to normal (pre-Road Construction season). I had almost let myself feel quite satisfied for a moment as I stood, sweat dripping down the back of my neck and my hands proudly on my hips as I surveyed my handiwork, until I glanced at Girlfriend’s carwash glove. It was practically black and I instantly panicked. Hell hath no fury like Girlfriend when she knows I’ve messed with her Very Important Things (carwash glove included in that list) – I was already on shaky ground because I’d accidentally broken a candle holder (to my credit, it had been put away in the attic and my heart was in the right place, I just wanted to put it on a dresser and display it!) but now things were serious and I was cursing myself for thinking I could get away with using her special glove. So, I did what any good girlfriend would do and sat in the grass in the front yard for about fifty hours (or what felt like it) with the spray of the hose directly on the pad to clean it and clear away all of the tar that I’d inadvertently extricated from the side of my car right onto the giant glove. Luckily, it cleaned up and I was able to wash away all of the tar but not before creating a small moat around the front of my house.
I’m sure my neighbors were probably questioning why I only washed one side of my car, why I painstakingly hosed down what probably just looked like a certain one square foot section of the front lawn for so long and, of course, why I’d slathered a hamburger topping all over the side of my car to begin with, but at that point, I was just thrilled that Google had actually come through for me – How dare I doubt the magic of Google, even for just a moment! Now, I’m certainly not one to walk around with a sense of entitlement or undeserved feelings of privilege (regardless of what my adverse feelings towards manual labor are – I get what I “got” to get done when I “got” to do it! Case in point being today, actually), but at that moment, walking into my house in soaked sweatpants with muddy feet, a sweat-covered face, a rather foul odor and hair that definitely needed to rendez-vous with its close, personal friends named Shampoo and Conditioner, I decided that first, I was going to pour myself a cold drink. After today, I was definitely entitled to it.