Owners of vintage cars like getting attention, in the same way owners of exotic breeds of dogs do. You don't buy a mint-condition 1965 VW Beetle or an Irish wolfhound not to have people ask about it.
That's why, when Dave and Wendy asked if I'd drive them in my '65 Bug as part of their post-wedding celebration, I said sure. Double the attention. A vintage car filled with a newlywed couple! I made plans to wash and wax the Vee-Wee just for the occasion.
My plans remained intact for weeks. Where's the line between plans and procrastination? I crossed it, bucket of soapy water in hand, the night before the wedding.
What fun. The bubbles sloshed over the car and cascaded down the sexy slopes of the wheel wells. Some chores are more than chores. They're rituals. I get the same restorative vibes washing the car as I do changing guitar strings: Both are acts of renewal.
But I hadn't waxed the car for a few years. That work was going to be a little more foreign. I started from scratch with a tub of paste wax. It came with it a cute, circle-shaped pad for application.
I dipped it into the Grey Poupon-colored wax. Just like in the TV commercials, I worked it on with a vigorous, circular motion. The instructions said, "apply lightly." There was a picture of a guy standing in his driveway next to his newly waxed car. It was beautiful. If applying lightly got that shine, I thought, then applying heavily will get things even shinier. I slathered it on thick.
"Allow to dry for an hour," read the directions. I decided more would be better there, too, choosing to call it quits for the night, wake up a little earlier the next morning, buff the bejesus out of it, and head to the wedding.
In the morning the VW looked like it had been cast in commercial grade stucco. The pretty swirls and circles were pronounced now, creating a deeply rutted, geometric glaze of off-yellow concrete.
I grabbed a terrycloth rag and rubbed it against a spot on the front hood. I rubbed harder. I may as well have been trying to buff the sidewalk. The wedding started in three hours.
I handled this setback the way any calm, mature, fast-thinking guy would. I sprinted upstairs and begged Peggy to help me.
It was hot that morning. We worked hard. And over the course of 45 minutes we had finished waxing a portion of the Volkswagen the size of a large computer screen. Harder and faster we rubbed. It was as though the car had been entombed for centuries in lava.
We were getting in each other's way, too. Elbows flying and jabbing like we were working the lane in a Chicago Bulls game.
"Let's each take a side," Peggy suggested. She walked around to the other side. I watched her head disappear behind the Bug.
Another hour passed. At this pace we were going to be lucky to be finished in time to drive Dave and Wendy to their first anniversary party. We were rubbing each tiny spot with all of our might just to heat it up enough to move it around. "Let's get the hair dryer on this sucker," Peggy said.
We borrowed our next-door neighbor's hair dryer, too. Turned them on full blast. We looked like strong-armed bandits holding a glazed doughnut car at gunpoint. But the hot air helped.
I can't speak for Peggy, but I doubt if failed Cuba-to-Florida swimmer Diane Nyad's arms hurt more than mine during her final, desperate hours. I wasn't sure if I'd be able to grip the wheel even if we freed the car from its wax tomb. We pressed on.
A neighbor came to our aid and ran off to get a huge bouquet of colorful helium balloons. We thought that would be a nice touch...me, as dapper as the Monopoly Man, handing the balloons to the happy couple as they climbed into the Bug.
Weddings are nothing if not shiny things themselves. The hot summer day was glorious. Peggy didn't make it out of the shower in time for my departure. But the Bug shone like a diamond in the sun as I pulled off John Nolen Drive and angled up the shady hill toward the Olin Park barn.
Formal weddings make everyone look beautiful. Guests were filing into the barn for the ceremony as I turned the Bug off at the top of the hill. Two people finding each other in this world is no more or less miraculous than raking an inch of dried wax off your car in three hours, I thought.
But I was exhilarated. We made it. I opened the car door and stepped out. The bundle of balloons made a soft bumpity-bump sound as they followed me out. The music began inside the barn. I craned my neck and watched the pretty bouquet of Mylar rise up higher and higher into the summer sky.