posted by Matt W on July 23rd, 2014

This past weekend, the family was out working in the yard, typical yard clean-up stuff: mowing, edging, weeding, and we even pulled out an old dying bush. As the yard work was winding down, I remembered that I had asked my son to wax his car (more accurately MY car that he happens to get to drive around). While I have had him waxing cars in the distant past, he said he didn’t really remember how to do this seemingly simple task. Wax on, wax off… wax on, wax off… it’s not rocket science. My god, you’ll even be magically better at karate by doing it. So, as the rest of the family was finishing up in the yard, I went into the garage and grabbed my car cleaning supplies and brought them out by his car.

His car looked recently cleaned (my guess was the recent heavy rain, not some actual car cleaning work on his part), so I just went right to the waxing part. I held out the wax and applicator pad for him to start. The look I got back made them seem alien, and I gave a quick glance down to my hands to make sure the wax and pad hadn’t been mystically replaced by some space creature. Nope they were still there.

Sensing the need for a demonstration, I proceeded to start applying wax to the trunk of the car. My daughter was intrigued and wandered over. “Rub in the wax pressing hard, I prefer a circular motion. Let it dry for a bit, but don’t let it get too dry, and then buff out rubbing hard with a clean towel. Unless you’re rubbing hard in both the application and removal of the wax, it really isn’t doing much.” They listened and watched as I buffed out the trunk. They both started applying the wax to the rest of the car. My wife wandered over to join in. For the next 20 minutes, I gave a course on car cleaning.

“Do I wax the black plasticy parts?”

”No, I would use the Armor-All for non-painted surfaces.”

“How do I do that?” followed by my giving a lesson in Vinyl protectant.

“What’s this Rain-X for?”

“It is sort of like applying a wax to your window, it makes water bead up on the glass.”

“Should I just rub it on?”

“Carefully read the label and follow the directions, it makes a pretty big difference with that product.”

“I ran out of wax, can I use this wax?”

“That’s a leather seat cleaner and protectant.”

“It says wax.”

“It says Turtle Wax, that’s the brand. It’s leather cleaner.” (In their defense, it was a very poorly labeled product.)

So over the course of 20 minutes, I taught my daughter and retaught my wife and son how to clean up a car. They were clueless. As each of their IQ’s are at least a couple of standard deviations above the norm (math that they wouldn’t have any problem figuring out), this wasn’t a lack of intellect or even desire; it was just three people that weren’t used to solving non-textbook problems very often. My son wasn’t being defiant when he wasn’t waxing the car, he just didn’t know where to start. I tend to overuse the line, “When I was a kid…” but once again, when I was a kid, my dad handed me a bucket, some soap, and wax and said, “Wax the car” and the next time he didn’t hand me anything when he gave the task. It was just common sense and everybody had it. Not so much anymore.

Well, the car looked great, but apparently I need to have more Saturday family work sessions so my kids will be able to figure out how to do things for themselves when their out on their own. Or maybe they’ll just call their dad when they have questions like I still do.

File Under Jack of all Trades