Like an Iguana with Its Head Cut Off


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I often say that God has been preparing Janice to be a missionary her whole life.

When my wife, Janice, was a little girl she loved when the family would butcher chickens. The chickens would get their heads whacked off and then get their feathers get plucked out. Don’t worry, if chickens don’t have their heads attached they actually don’t mind getting their feathers pulled out. That’s why you pluck chickens after their heads come off. Once the headless chickens were plucked clean, they would be plopped in a bucket of water while the rest of the flock was processed. This is when Janice would sneak up and snatch one or two of them. She would run off to her little rocking chair and have the grandest time playing doll with a plucked, headless chicken. The best thing about a dead chicken (here’s a tip for a cheap child’s toy) is that if you squeeze it, it will still “baaawwk” just like a real live chicken. Janice apparently found this very entertaining. The family would always have to count their chickens before they cleaned up for the day because chances were Janice was babysitting a couple of them.

Janice didn’t find headless lizards so entertaining, however. When she was a little girl living in Paraguay, her brothers found a huge three foot long iguana (according to Janice). Being boys, they chopped its head off during what was undoubtedly an important scientific study. Then her brothers poked the headless iguana with sticks and, since the lizard still had working reflexes, it would scurry off in a random, undetermined direction. Its legs still worked fine! After awhile it would stop and the brothers would poke it again. Eventually the iguana’s wiring shorted out and it stopped moving altogether. The headless lizard caused Janice a great deal of grief, which no doubt added to the boy’s fun. If kids today had to play with headless lizards instead of iPhones, this world would be a better place.

Speaking of headless things, I felt like a lizard with its head cut off the other day.

I had a cheap Canon printer from WalMart and it worked fine for me until a couple days ago. It was time to send another Snader Flyby newsletter out in the mail and so I tried to print ninety double sided newsletters in a short amount of time. The printer started screeching and I could almost hear pressure whistling out of the cracks like a steam engine that was ready to blow. I also had to apply for a loan so I could buy enough ink to print the newsletters. It took a total of three ink cartridges! We’re going to have to print a lot more newsletters in the future and so clearly a better solution was needed. I used to work for my brother taking pictures of puppies and we printed out tons of pictures every day to hand out to customers. They used an Epson Eco-Tank printer. Instead of having plastic cartridges that you replace, it just has tanks full of ink. When you run out of ink, you simply buy a new jug of ink and dump it into the printer. It cut printing costs by 80% or more. I needed a printer like that!

I found a printer like that on Walmart.com. It was a higher initial investment but after seven newsletters it would be paid off. Walmart claimed I could order it online and pick it up within an hour at their Goshen location so I assumed this meant they had one in stock. I didn’t bother buying it online because it was just as easy to pay for it in the store.

I figured while I was out on the road, I might as well swing by the car wash since Janice made the van dirty by driving up and down Michigan dirt roads, helping the in-laws pack and move out of their old farmhouse. Michigan has many dirt roads, each one dirtier than the last although I’ve found many Michigan dirt roads are actually smoother than Indiana’s paved roads. Dirt roads make vehicles very dirty in a short period of time, and we typically wash the van after long periods of time, so you can imagine how dirty the van actually was. “I parked the van in a field at mom and dad’s and I spent an hour finding it,” Janice said, “It’s time to wash it.”

“There’s a bucket in the garage,” I left my words hang in the air, hoping she’d volunteer for the job. The problem with washing the van in our driveway is that there’s not much space. On one side of the driveway is our house and on the other side is the neighbor’s fence. In the middle there’s a space about two feet wider than a Dodge Caravan. You ease into the driveway, open the door against the neighbor’s fence, and then squeeze your skull through the door jam. Pop! Then you slide your arm through, grab the roof rack, and pull upwards while wiggling your body at a certain rhythm so that your intestines line up and take turns finding their way through the door. Once you’re out of the van, you shake yourself so that your internal organs go back to where they are supposed to be. Then you have to scrub the van while the brush is two inches from your nose. It’s a very intense process and it’s hard not to leave any skippers.

“I hate washing the van in our driveway,” Janice declined the invitation.

I tried to feign surprise that anyone would find washing the van in our driveway an inconvenience. “Huh. OK, I can do it.” I’d swing by the northwest side of Goshen, wash the van at the car wash, then drive to the southeast part of town to buy the printer at Walmart.

I arrived at the car wash and decided to use the coin operated wash bay.  It was my intention to save money by scrubbing my own vehicle instead of having a fancy, overpriced machine do it for me. I had $7 in quarters that I dug out of Janice’s purse. She still had a bunch of change left from the yard sale we had a month or so ago. I dropped $5 worth into the timer slot which bought me about 6 minutes. I sprinted towards the pressure washer and hosed the van down like a frantic madman. Then I dashed back to the selector switch and turned on the foaming brush. I lunged towards the brush hanging on the wall, grabbed it, and began furiously scrubbing acres of dirt off of the Caravan, flinging foam everywhere. I was almost done scrubbing when I heard a ding ding echo off the wash bay walls. I can’t be done already, I thought. I wasn’t done but the timer was! There my van sat, covered in suds and dirty water and I had no way to rinse it off! I dug the rest of the quarters out of my pocket and put them in the machine. All I needed was sixty seconds of water! It was only after I deposited all my quarters into the machine that I realized they had a $3 minimum charge. I had deposited only $2! I looked for the “Coin Return” button but there wasn’t any! What kind of con-artists run this joint? This meant that unless I had another $1 in quarters, I just helped pay for the next guys wash. I’m a charitable guy but even I have limits to my generosity. I dug through every crack and corner of the van but only found dimes, nickels, and pennies. They might as well have been Mexican Pesos because the machine only took quarters. I stood there while the futility of the situation sunk in. Then, like any rational adult faced with futility, I rapidly jumped up and down in a stationary location while gritting my teeth and slapping my forehead with my hands. Grrrrrr!

The car wash also had an automatic wash. The cheapest, most basic was was $6. I decided rather than drive home and have all the dirt dry back on my van, I might as well finish the process and go through the automatic wash so that I actually end up with a clean van. Plus, the automatic wash had a credit card reader so I didn’t need quarters. Is it better to spend $7 and still have a dirty van or spend $13 and have a clean van? I drove the van around the plaza, soap bubbles streaming off and dancing through air. People looked at me with raise eyebrows and I could read their thoughts, You’re not done yet, stupid.

I rolled up to the kiosk, and paid for the cheapest cheapskate wash, muttering angrily beneath my breath. Then I drove through the gate, which closed behind me, and tried to put my driver’s side window up. Nothing happened. I flicked the switch as the futility of the situation sunk in. I sighed and rapidly jumped up and down on my seat while gritting my teeth and slapping my forehead with my hands; the same technique used by rational adults that I had described to you before except this time performed while sitting in a van. The van window works fine 85% of the time. It usually stops working only when it’s raining, it’s below freezing, or there’s a flock of killer hornets swarming around the van. If I wait five minutes, it works again like nothing was ever wrong. The problem was that there was a line of cars forming behind me since there was only one automatic wash lane. I flicked the window switch again. Nothing. I prayed, pleaded, and sought wisdom and discernment. I tried to buy time by just sitting there looking inconspicuous while blocking traffic and hoping the window would decide to work. After what seemed like an hour I flicked the switch again. Nothing! The attendant inside building came wandering out with a slight grin on his face.

“Window won’t go up?” He had a visor sitting halfheartedly on his head. He seemed to be a friendly, helpful chap.

“Yea,” I chuckled nervously. “How did you know?”

“I saw you rapidly hopping up and down on your seat, gritting your teeth, and hitting your forehead with your hands,” he said. “I’ll grab the window and pull, you try to put it up.” That actually got the window about a quarter of the way up.

“Try it again.” We tried it again and moved it another inch or two.

We repeated this pattern several times. I flicked the switch, he grunted and pulled. We got the window within a quarter inch of closing. “GOOD ENOUGH!” I yelled through the crack, “Let’s go!”

The wash took about three minutes. I drove out the other end, waited at a traffic light, then made a beeline towards Walmart. Just for the kicks of it, I wiggled the window switch. The window worked without any issues. Grrr!

Forty seven traffic lights later I got to Walmart and they said something like, “I’m sorry, we don’t have any of those printers in stock and we won’t get any in for a month because we don’t actually care about you that much. But if you need ink, we have it on sale and we offer 0% interest for the first 72 months.”

I said phooey to that and made a beeline for Staples which was close to the car wash I just came from. Forty nine traffic lights later I arrived and bought the printer.