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Chapstick and the Vacuum Cleaner

Have you ever tasted bad chap stick?  Most brands of chap stick or lip balm come in a variety of flavors, and for the most part, have a non-offensive taste.  So how could it be that I found myself wondering this very question one day back in 1994?  Let me think now…  it was February, no it was March… wait… it was definitely March; March of ’94…  Now, let me take a few steps back and see if I can remember how this all came to my mind…

It was a cold, dry day in March.  I remember clearly how that morning started because it was one of those rare mornings when you roll over in bed and say to yourself.  “Don’t go to work today.  Take the day off.  You deserve it!”  I love how that feeling feels when it first comes to mind.  The possibilities!  So many possibilities!  Once I convinced myself that it was a good idea, I was next faced with the problem that every all-American working hookie player is faced with.  How to execute the plan.  The Boss! Am I sick? Is my car broke?  Shucks, why can’t I just be honest and say, “I’d rather be anywhwere than there today!  You’ve got me tomorrow and the rest of the week, hell, the rest of life, just give me back today!”  Well, I rolled out of bed and made my best “death warmed-over” voice then made the call.  I felt relieved afterward and was glad for that.  That meant that I had made the right decision.  Feelings of guilt is a tell-tale sign that you should have went in afterall.

With breakfast out of the way and my wife off to work, I was staring right smack in the face of a free day.  I really hadn’t much planned but that was okay.  There were always home projects to tackle, or some music to work out.  I play piano as a hobby and I have a constant supply of projects that are in need of attention.  What to do?  What to do?  As I passed through the kitchen I noticed a piece of paper on the counter.  It was penned by my wife and although it had plenty of XOXOXOXs on the bottom, my heart still sunk.  There is nothing that can kill a free day faster than a honey-do list.  My body posture turned from a sprinting smile to a slumping frown.  Before me on this cursed page was scribbled a short list of errands that I “could do if you have any spare time, Thanks!!!  Love, me :)”.  The smiley face did not help.

Okay, I regrouped.  I could combine a couple tasks, make two passes through town and be back here before lunch.  The day could still be salvaged.  Besides, when you are playing hooky, you should always show a positive outlook on life and give everything that “Can Do” spirit.  So, I jumped into some jeans and a shirt, dived into the shoes and grabbed my hat and coat.  A quick stop at the hardware store for some lawn care products, a trip across town to the dry cleaners and then swing back around to a home appliance service center.  I found the service center in the commercial yellow pages book since it was 1994 and there was no internet yet.  I called and verified that they service our brand of vacuum cleaners, since we owned a German-brand vacuum and service centers were scarce.

So, out of my garage in my Jeep Cherokee I flew.  I had packed the broken vacuum cleaner in the back of the Jeep next to a sack of soiled clothes that needed the dry cleaner’s expertise.  My first thought from behind the wheel, was how windy it was today.  The car was telling me it was 35 degrees Fahrenheit outside, but the wind was blistering and it felt much colder.  The windows stayed up and the heat came on.  My trip to the hardware store took longer than I expected because I had many choices in lawn seed and fertilizer.  You see, we were  new home owners then and I was trying to start a new lawn in the back yard.  Some experts were suggesting an early seeding in spring would be a great first step.  Once I purchased my seed and fertilizer, I loaded them in the back of the Jeep and headed to the dry cleaners next.  As always, our local dry cleaner was cheerful and attentive.  Her business was doing quite well in this young town.  With a smile and wink I was out the door heading back to my car.

The wind howled as I approached the car I had to hold on to my hat to avoid losing it.  I could feel winter’s frost in the air.  It smacked my exposed face from the left and the right.  My dry lips were in serious need of lip balm protection.  Thank goodness my wife had supplied me with a new stick just the night before, because although at the time I was in denial, I had become addicted to the stick.  And a swipe right now was all I could think of it.  Safe in the car, I removed the new chap stick from my pocket and applied it.  On to the home appliance service center!  A few minutes later, I had located the store front sign and made my way into their parking lot.  I parked the car and extracted the broken vacuum cleaner from the Jeep’s back hatch.  “Good Heavens!”, it was windy and cold today.  I briefly thought and dismissed the notion that the chap stick tasted unusual.

I raced to the front entrance of the store with vacuum in hand.  I stepped into a pleasant appliance store filled with latest models of the most comm0n home appliances.  There were washers and dryers, microwaves and dish washers, and yes, even vacuum cleaners.  I quickly found our brand on display and noted that this year’s model was looking quite enticing.  It came with a backpack accessory that allowed you to move easily throughout your home limited only by the tethered power line.  Quite impressive!  Music was playing off in the distance as I raised my head.  I was suddenly aware of how quiet the store was.  I was their only customer this early March morning.  I could not spot a single sales person to engage in meaningless weather conversation.  So, I made my way to the rear of the building where the service center counter rested.  I set my vacuum cleaner down on the floor as “Girl From Ipanema” seeped out of their music system, source unknown.  Stan Getz’s dreamy horn was doing its best to retaliate the March morning winter wind.

There was a bell on the counter and since no one was present, I used it.  A short, well-groomed service man emerged from behind a door and stood before  me.  There was a very uncomfortable moment or two while he just starred at me in a silent way that felt somehow eerie to me.  His eyes began to move across my face and then my whole body.  A moment later, he averted his eyes as he inquired, “Can I help you?”.  I wanted nothing more than to move on past this strange encounter so I simply stated my business.  I said, “My vacuum cleaner is broke.  It won’t blow any more.  I mean… suck any more.  I mean, well you know.  It’s broke.”  That sounded weird even to me, so I quickly followed up with a question, “You service this German brand, right?”.  At which time he nodded affirmatively and started filling out a service order form.  A few more minutes of uncomfortable conversation and I signed some form for the work request and with a copy in hand, I was leaving the vacuum cleaner behind and heading for the door.  Stan Getz’s horn had had enough of the girl from Ipanema and the song was fading from the speakers as I reached the exit.  I left the service center.

I couldn’t shake the thought of that bizarre encounter with the service man as I stepped back into the March winter.  I thought to myself, at the very least, the honey-do list is done and I can get back to my day.  But again, this darn wind was cold today.  I tasted my lips to see if I needed to reswipe the lip balm.  Ugh, this is the worst tasting chap stick I have ever had.  I raced across the parking lot and jumped into the Jeep.  I pulled the sun visor down and found my vanity mirror.  I pulled back the cover as it lit up my face with the bright utility light.  With the chap stick in hand, I looked deep into the mirror preparing to reapply.  To my utter horror, I was sporting a thick coat of bright pink lip gloss, complete with some glitterly specks which I suspect are used to entice with its mysterious light dancing thrills.  EGADS!!!!

I would NEVER be able to show my face in that store again.

One week later, MY WIFE returned home with a fully operational vacuum cleaner.

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2 responses to “Chapstick and the Vacuum Cleaner”

  1. Sherry Koontz Avatar
    Sherry Koontz

    How did you know that I needed a good laugh right now? Loved this!

    1. mikehemphill Avatar

      Sherry, thanks for the kind words. I’m glad you enjoyed. Watch for future blog posts for more fun stories!

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