LARRY PENKAVA COLUMN: Where did the Ringo? (With apologies to Richard Starkey)

Published 3:19 pm Friday, September 16, 2022

It made me wonder if doing odd jobs was worth the effort.

I was a teenager in 1964-65 and had a free Saturday during my senior year of high school. I remember being a senior because I had my high school class ring. More about that later.

Larry Penkava

During that time period, my parents rented out a two-room house behind our family home. It was built for my Grandma but she was working away from home during the week and stayed with us on weekends.

The young lady who rented Grandma’s house worked full-time and had a couple of young kids. She asked me one Saturday to wash her car and I said I would, giving her some time to relax. She gave me some money and suggested I take her car up to the service station about a quarter mile away and use the service stall.

I said OK, took the money, drove up the road and pulled into the station. I told the owner I wanted to use one of his service stalls to wash the car. He said there was a charge, which just happened to be the same amount that the lady had given me.

But I felt committed and gave him the money. I drove into the stall, where there was a grate in the floor covering a pit where water, oil and grease were collected.

A cinder-block wall separated the stall from another grease pit. At the top of the wall was a slim flat area that slanted on either side.

Since I was a senior and recent proud owner of a shiny class ring, I decided to remove it while doing my dirty work. I placed it on top of the wall, careful to keep in on the flat layer at the very top.

Then I began washing my neighbor’s car, spraying it down with the water hose. When it was good and wet, I took a wash rag and some soap to lather up the top, doors and windows, the hood and grill, and the trunk and bumpers.

I made sure I had removed all the dirt, especially around the tires and wheel covers. Then I sprayed the car all over again, removing everything that wasn’t car.

It was looking pretty shiny by the time I had dried it off with another rag. I felt pretty good about helping out a young mother who was struggling to provide for her family.

I was about to leave when I remembered my class ring. I reached to grab it and realized it was not on top of the wall. I looked all around the stall and the ring was nowhere to be seen.

“Uh-oh,” I thought. The ring must have been knocked off the wall and wound up in the grease pit.

I told the station owner and he said to back the car out and we could remove the grate over the pit. Once that was done, he handed me a metal can to bail the water out.

Using the can, I began bailing water, oil, grease and who knows what all else. Things looked hopeless to start but I was determined to get back my class ring.

I dipped the can, drained water out onto the ground, dipped again and drained again. I’m not sure which took longer — dipping out all that liquid or washing the car.

Fortunately, the water in the pit was just a few inches deep above a thick sludge. When I saw the beginnings of mire, I picked up my pace.

Dip and drain, dip and drain. Finally, most of the sludge was revealed.

And there, shining in the afternoon sun, was my beautiful class ring. I grabbed it carefully, wiped off the sludge and gently placed it back on my ring finger.

I told the station owner bye, jumped into the driver’s seat and drove the shiny machine back to my neighbor. She was so happy to see it cleaned up that I didn’t say a word about what happened, or having washed it for nothing.

However, the next time she asked me to wash her car, I told her I’d just as soon do the job using the water hose and wash rags at our house.

And I would put my class ring in my pocket for safe keeping.

Larry Penkava is a writer for Randolph Hub. Contact him at 336-302-2189 or larrypenkava@gmail.com.