If anyone would’ve asked me prior to today, I would have answered without a doubt that I had done a post about this story. However, two things this week made me check. The first was one of my students asking why teenage and twenty-something males seem to lack common sense, and the second was one of my old friends mentioned shoe polish in a Facebook comment.
These two items (common sense and polish) played a HUGE part in a road-trip back to Pullman for a Cougar Football Game….
We were taking a big crew on this trip in the fall of 1992. There was me, the Mudsucker, his brother Grant, Dave, and Dart Butt. It was the first trip with all of us going. At the time, I had a Ford Festiva (picture a roller skate with a steering wheel) which barely fit me, let alone 3 over 6 footers and another guy my size.
The others didn’t have vehicles much bigger, and we all wanted to ride together (makes road trips more fun that way!) I had just learned that since I worked at the Mighty P, I could get rental vehicles pretty darn cheap. So I booked one and ended up with a brand new, less than 5000 miles on the odometer, pristine white mini van.
When we all got together, Dave saw it and uttered those words that would alter our destiny… “You know,” he said thoughtfully, “If we got black shoe polish, we could write “GO COUGS” and “WSU” all over it! People would love it! And it’ll wash right off!!”
So here we had 5 college graduates, all gainfully employed in corporate America, all with jobs that took judgement and decision making. And, I might add here, we were dry as a tater chip, sober as bell. So of course we did the right thing with this suggestion. “OH HELL YEAH! LET’S DO IT!”
For the record, I believe Rob was a bit hesitant, he hadn’t known us as long. But if Dave said it would wash off that was gospel! So decorate we did all over the car, not the windows, but the car itself! And off we went, into a blazing hot eastern Washington weekend.
The whole way over, cute girls were waving at us and guys were honking their horns, we were eating it up! But then the weekend gets murky.
Folks, I can tell you the result of every game and who we played for each and every trip to Pullman since I graduated in 1987. Except this one… I know we went to the game, but after the reaching Pullman, my next memory isn’t until Sunday morning. I have no idea what happened that game day, I think I blocked it out.
Sunday, a bit hung over, we went to the gas station to wash off the polish and gas up. We each got a squeegee and paper towels, and started in on it and it didn’t come off. “Um Dave, it aint coming off…” “Use more water and rub harder!” “Um Dave???” I was starting to worry as the car WAS in my name with the company discount, and I thought turning it in covered in shoe polish was a bad plan.
About the time I was REALLY getting stress, this good ole boy in a cowboy hat driving a pickup (is that a redundancy?) came up to us and said, “You know, if you get some soft scrub, that black crap will come right off!” It was as if the old man on the mountain had spoken and given us the secret of life! OF COURSE! SOFTSCRUB!! I was off to the store and back in minutes and gooped that stuff on the car!
Sure enough, the polish came right off!
We were off, heading home, in hight spirits cuz pulled it off! The Stroh’s Bros ride again!
That is until about 15 miles outside Ellensburg, and I looked at the hood of the van. It took a minute to figure out what I was seeing, but there it was. Etched in the finish WSU! YEP, the softscrub took off the polish, but also the van’s finish.
No worries! We don’t call Dave MacGyver for nuthin. “Take the E-Burg exit!” he shouted, “We are buying rubbing compound and cloths! We can blend it!” So yep, there we were in a parking lot, rubbing away at a mini van. We worked for an hour, and sure enough, we looked successful. No angle we took showed any more words!
On the road again! And as we climbed the pass, and the sun set a bit, there it was again. A bit distorted, almost looking like cursive, but sure as hell WSU still on the hood of the car. We were doomed.
Legend has it, even though I was driving, I went a bit comatose. I was heard to say, over and over again, “Dave said it would wash off, Dave said”… I think the brain short circuited a bit… (Hence the loss of memory of the game we saw.)
Dave, however was not done yet. “Step on it! We need to get to Issaquah (the first real town after the pass) before the auto parts store closes!”
Editor’s note: Remember this was 92, none of us had cell phones let alone smart phones, we had no idea what time the store closed, but it was Sunday and it was getting late. I stepped on it!”
We got to an auto parts store just before closing, got a buffer and an extension cord, and buffed the crap out of the car. Rubbing compound, cleaner, polish, you name it, Dave wielded that buffer like a samurai! When he was done, it was better, but it could still be seen…
And then it started to rain. Which to this day I swear saved us.
I filled the tank with more gas than humanly possible, then took the van back to the rental place, and parked it as far from the office as I could, and dropped the keys in the drop box. I will tell you water was beading up on the hood like you wouldn’t believe. This made it even harder to see the remaining letters.
The week after, each time the phone rang, I dreaded it was the rental company. Then, Saturday, when I got the mail, there was a letter from them. CRAP! I took it inside (luckily my exwife was at her mom’s cuz let me tell you she did NOT see the humor in this at all “How could 5 college grads do something so stupid!” was said more than once!)
I called Dave so he would be there in spirit if there was an issue. Inside was a receipt for the rental and note thanking us for our business!
Phew!! We survived!
A year later, when I back in Pullman, I noticed that right next to the gas station was a car wash with high pressure wands and scrub brushes. And I thought “Why the hell didn’t we just do that?”
Oh yeah, we are guys and not that smart!
Thanks for visiting!