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Our Friend, Ralph
by Brenda Kern 
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Our Friend, Ralph

A co-worker invited me to her house for Thanksgiving, and another invited co-worker suggested that we carpool. Okey, dokey—-she drove to my house and I drove from there to the host house—-in a far-flung part of a fairly undeveloped suburb of our city. We had a lovely Thanksgiving Day, with a wonderful meal and fine fellowship, followed by fun games.

But then we got lost on the way back, with these factors:

*I was running out of gas
*I hadn’t brought a coat or jacket, and it was bitterly cold
*I was wearing “flats,” shoes not good for walking any distance
*It was dark (we left at 6:30)
*We were two women (alone)
*It was a holiday evening
*Neither one of us was a person good at maps, directions, etc. or knew the area
*I nearly slid off the road once on a patch of ice/snow, adding to the tension
*The area was pretty isolated, with no gas stations available or near
*Also no businesses were around to stop in to and ask directions
*Neither one of us had a cell phone (with no pay phones to be found)

I was imagining a “News at 11” story line like:

The bodies of two women were found today—-they had frozen to death. Apparently their vehicle ran out of gas, then they uselessly walked in circles for hours until collapsing only 27 feet from where they left the car. Authorities are unsure of why anyone would be stupid enough to not have a coat with them in Colorado in November, and communications officials were surprised to learn that two adult humans existed in 2003 who did not own cell phones...”

We finally stopped at some stranger’s house and got directions, finding out that a gas station was also located at about the intersection of “Wilderness Street and Civilization Avenue,” the place where we would know where we were.

So, all we had to do was get from that house to the gas station before we ran out of gas, then the bad part would be over...or so we thought.

The lady with me then barfed in the car! We had one kitchen towel with us (she had brought that wrapped around her yams), and we used that to clean up as best we could. I felt terrible for her, and, obviously, she didn’t feel so hot either. But, we had to drive on (you know, for survival)—-the truth is, everybody upchucks every now and again, it’s just a part of life. Sometimes it’s just a little less, um, convenient than other times.

We needed to have both windows all the way down, because I was afraid I would ralph, too, and that just wouldn’t have helped the situation at all. I had already been trying to only use the heat sparingly, because of the fuel situation, and just gave up on that with the windows down. Time passed and we got behind a slow truck, and it seemed like an eternity had come and gone. I couldn’t feel my hands, I was so cold. But, we finally did get to the Kwik Way mini-mart and gas station. I prayed that the gas pumps would be open, even though it was Thanksgiving Evening, and they were, thank God!!!

I filled the tank, fighting the urge to weep with relief, and she exited to the Ladies Room to clean herself up somewhat. I fought another urge while I tried to clean the inside of the car with the snow brush (it was the long-handled kind), and found out that cleaning it was a losing proposition—-frozen barf doesn’t wipe away. We drove on with the heat on BLAST and the windows open, which was wasteful, but was necessary. We weren’t so cold anymore! We got back to my place and she said she regretted that she couldn’t stay and clean up my car, but that she didn’t feel well and needed to go home. Of course I understood that, and I knew that cleaning the car that night wasn’t going to be possible anyway, because of the cold.

Friday morning I faced the music—-I listened to the weather report, and they said it was right around the freezing mark, but it felt slightly warmer than that, about mid-thirties. I mixed laundry detergent and apple-scented dishwashing liquid in hot water and used my snow brush from the car a little more effectively than I had the night before at the gas station! It was officially not the funnest thing I’ve ever done in my life, but I got through it, and I thought I was doing a pretty good job of it.

Until I saw the speaker. My car has two speakers set into the doors, one on the driver side, one on the passenger side, round plastic disks. With holes. Oh, dear. The brush and cloth I was using were, let’s say, ineffective, so I knew I had to try another tool. I thought of something I had inside that might work, and went and got it.

As I sat down to the task at hand with my box of toothpicks, I pondered the meaning of life and tried to concentrate on things I was thankful for.

When I told my roommate about my adventure, she told me the car wash across the street from us had a little separate-standing island in the back with a vacuum machine and a carpet shampooer for cars.

So I took the vehicle across the street when I had done the best I could with the cleaning, and found the shampooer she had mentioned, plus another help. There, next to the vacuum/shampooer, was a “Magic Mist” machine. Using this, you can spray a fine mist of scent into your car’s carpet or upholstery. I had four aroma choices to cover up the fragrance permeating the automobile at the time: Pińa Colada, Wild Cherry, New Car Smell, or Baby Powder.

Pińa Colada and you-know-what. Pause with me a moment and contemplate the glory of that particular combination…

I chose Baby Powder, and it was helpful.

It was helpful again on Saturday.

I’ve shared this little incident with a number of people, and have gotten useful advice from all angles, some of which I’ve tried:

*Let the floor mat dry in the sun—sunlight is good for removing odors
*Use baking soda to absorb the odor
*Put Bounce sheets in the car to mask the odor
*Try Febreze (a fabric and upholstery deodorizer)
*Buy new floor mats!
*Re-wet the floor mat and the area with water and use a Shopvac to remove any remaining, unseen...stuff
*It could have been worse—this could have happened in warm weather!
*Try a pet deodorizer called “Nature’s Miracle”
*Leave the windows down as much as you can to air it out

It’s fine for now, and I don’t even think about it much any more. Nor am I aware of it much at all. But...

Summer’s coming...

Brenda Kern
December 17, 2003

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Member Comments
Member Date
Karlene Jacobsen 04 Jun 2009
Oh this is hilarious! I know it wasn't at the time, but I could just picture the scenario as I read and could barely get through without laughing.
Suzanne R 19 Jul 2005
Gross! I love the title. And the article. Bet you're glad that's behind you! Ugh. Loved your way of putting things so succinctly, like the gas station being "the place where we would know where we were". Thanks for sharing this story with us. (I think....)
Lynda Lee Schab  09 Jul 2004
Brenda, this was hilarious! (I mean, probably not at the time...)but it kept me laughing the whole way through (I was laughing WITH you not AT you - but I'm so thankful it wasn't me!) :-) This is exactly the type of article I love to read...and write! Great job! Keep 'em coming! Blessings, Lynda Schab


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