Well, I found Jimmy Hoffa today. He had fallen down behind the driver’s seat of my van, along with some old Kleenex, a half used pack of gum, and a few quarters. Had I cleaned earlier, the mystery would have been solved.
I was waiting for one of those sunny days, not too hot, so I could clean the van in the driveway. It’s twelve years old, with over two hundred thousand kilometres, but it runs fine and scrubbed up it looks like new. Maintained over time, it has seen so much of our family life that it’s kind of like an old dog and I am not looking forward to its end.
There is spot cleaning and then there is the periodic deep clean that comes a few times a year. Today was a deep clean. I must confess I like working in the driveway. It is my happy place. Out in the sunshine I have washed things, taken machines apart, sanded down furniture, and painted and refinished. It is my expanded workshop that only happens during the summertime. The driveway is kind of like Tom Sawyer’s fence project. It draws onlookers. I have met friends and neighbours there. The driveway might be the original place where sages have held council and discussed life’s most perplexing mysteries.
The immediate problem was the pollen from our birch trees that had dusted the cars with dry yellow film that seemed stuck. There were also a few gifts from the birds that I understand eat through clear coat if you leave them. I had to get out the power washer and pre-soak with some soap to break things down a bit.
Soap is an amazing thing. Its particular magic happens when fatty acids react with a strong alkali. They used to pour rendered fat over fire ashes to get the home-made equivalent. You are left with soap and glycerin, which is the sugar alcohol. Think of dirt as the junk that lodges with the sticky stuff of nature, and sets. You need something to bust up the party. Soap is the one-two punch that does this.
A power washer might be one of the best things I own. It has taught me some great life lessons and even dare I say, theology. I can get lost in the process of power washing. The guy who wrote the Zen of Motorcycle Maintenance was on to something. Anyone who has slowly and carefully pursued a mundane task has discovered that it is a great time to meditate and pray. It has also been proven that the act of cleaning will naturally elevate your dopamine levels. That’s some pretty cheap drugs, so don’t rush things.
It might even be a sin to hurry. Mother Ann Lee of the Shakers instructed her followers to work as if their life might end today, and is if they were going to live a thousand years. Anyone who has ever dived into a worthwhile task knows what she was talking about. She also coined that phrase, “cleanliness is next to Godliness” and she might be right on that.
Work shows you the value of things because it is the ongoing cost of ownership. The idle rich hire others to maintain their goods, and I think that is why they do not learn to appreciate things, otherwise known as gratitude. The guy outside is humming while the man who owns the estate may be living a life of quiet desperation, stuck inside and bored to tears.
Stewardship gives you a sense of thrift, wisely relegating your funds to better things. It is time well spent and it teaches patience. Any complex skill is a merely a series of small tasks. You have to learn how to do the small tasks completely, and well before you move on to greater things.
When God set man loose in the garden of Eden he left him with a few simple instructions: Look after things, and oh, avoid that apple. So work is good. As a mandate, it comes from the top. Work will give you healthy vs false pride. It will make your stuff last longer. I am of the opinion that we won’t be sitting around playing harps in Heaven. We will likely have out the power washer, and a few cloths for polishing and it will be one long driveway party in the sun with lots of company.