I apologize in advance for the convoluted nature of today’s column. Ostensibly it is about bugs…lots of bugs. These bugs - from 17 states in the United States and one province - are the ones plastered all over the front of my vehicle twice each year. Technically, I guess, they are all insects…but they’re not all bugs. But, I digress…and I fear more digression before I finish this.
When I awoke last Sunday in Florida it was another sunny day…the temperature would reach a balmy 29-degrees Celsius by afternoon. My wife and I are fortunate to spend about seven months in the Okanagan and five months in Florida each year. We follow the sun…spending as few days as possible in weather below 10 degrees…a noble objective as far as I’m concerned.
We fly back to the Okanagan for Christmas with the kids and grandkids…and then fly back to Florida for the remainder of Winter and early Spring. Just a few weeks of cold and snow satisfy my need for bulky sweaters and heavy coats. Besides, a mall Santa Claus in shorts next to a Palm tree just doesn’t seem right.
Flying back and forth - as wearisome as dealing with airlines is - seems a snap compared to the mode of transportation for our initial coming and going. We leave Vernon for our farm in Florida the day after Thanksgiving with three horses, two Russian Wolf Hounds and two cats…all in a Ford F-350 pulling a 48-foot horse trailer. We refer to this 5,023-kilometre trip as our Semi-Annual Adventure…because we reverse courses and do the whole thing over again in Spring…and it is most definitely an adventure.
But, back to the bugs (and other insects)…and that otherwise beautiful Sunday morning last week. As I sipped my morning coffee and contemplated the task before me…cleaning the bugs and other insects…my mood was not sunny. I stared at the bumper, the headlights, the hood, the windshield…tens of thousands of insects turned my white truck grey. I cursed all one million insect species that populate the earth…pretty sure that all were present and accounted for.
I have tried every conceivable commercial bug and tar remover over the years…there are scores of them. They all sound impressive…scientific formulations…fantastic claims…and high prices. For example, a small spray bottle of Turtle Wax T-520A Tar and Bug Remover is about $12 CAN and claims it “requires no rubbing” to remove bug, tar and tree sap.
Regardless of the brand - Turtle Wax, Star Brite, Chemical Guys, Bugs N’All - I always ended up using equal amounts of product and elbow grease…and still not getting all the bugs off with promised ease. You get so desperate you’ll believe almost anything…I mean doesn’t Dr. Beasley’s P32D12 Bug Barrier sound good…for $18 US for 12 ounces?
Stewing over a lifetime of losing battles to bugs (and other insects), I suddenly had a Eureka moment. Someone - I don’t remember who - told me that nothing works better at cleaning bugs and tar than Bounce dryer sheets!
I ran to the laundry room, grabbed a few sheets…the darn things only cost $2.72 for a pack of 34 sheets…and returned to my bug-laden truck. Now there was a spring in my step…a slight smile on my face. I was through messing around. I even grabbed my bottle of Windex. After all, actor Michael Constantine who played the Greek dad, Gus Portokalos, in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” said it could cure everything from psoriasis to poison ivy. I didn’t care about reason or truth anymore…this was war and how could I lose with Windex AND Bounce?
I sprayed Windex and rubbed the Bounce dryer sheet across the chrome bumper…wiping the area clean with a cotton terry cloth. No bugs! I sprayed a larger area…same result. I yelled to my wife inside the house…“No bugs!” She seemed much less excited…apparently she never tried to clean week-old bugs from a bumper. I cleaned the entire truck - bumpers, windshield, dually fenders, headlights, even the license plate - with five Bounce dryer sheets in a half hour. Cost? Just 40 cents US. I was almost…no, I was…smug with my success.
I felt like calling Procter & Gamble - the company that makes Bounce - and telling them to start selling the dryer sheets in auto stores…Walmart…online. Triple the price and it’s still cheaper than the bug and tar remover competition…and it works. Heck, keep the same packaging…just slap a label on it and voila…Bug Bounce!
After all, dozens of products have evolved from intended uses to unintended uses. Kleenex tissue was marketed as a disposable make-up remover in 1924, but by 1926 more people were blowing their noses with them. Sales doubled overnight.
In 1957, two guys invented bubble wrap as - no kidding - a three-dimensional wallpaper. The product failed miserably. But two years later IBM decided it was perfect for shipping its new 1401 computers.
And for 60 years, a bakery in Connecticut sold its pies - as many as 80,000 a year - but until some Yale University students started throwing the pie tins around campus in 1956…well, that’s when Frisbee really took off.
So, I thought, why not come up with some new unintended uses for products? I asked my wife to make one of her famous top-shelf margaritas for inspiration and ruminated awhile. If I rubbed Preparation H on my tummy would I lose five pounds…it says it shrinks tissue? Hey, sweetie, how about another margarita?
– Don Thompson, an American awaiting Canadian citizenship, lives in Vernon and in Florida. In a career that spans more than 40 years, Don has been a working journalist, a speechwriter and the CEO of an advertising and public relations firm. A passionate and compassionate man, he loves the written word as much as fine dinners with great wines. His essays are a blend of news reporting and opinion.
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