Doesn’t the towel get cleaner

Doesn’t the towel get cleaner every time I use it?

I came home with a box filled with bike parts yesterday: everything on my desk, in fact, except for the gallon of BMW Sucker Lube, which will require a separate trip. When I pulled into the driveway, the sun was still shining, the birds were still singing, and I dove into an old T-shirt to replace my fuel petcocks. Kate, who has more experience with after-hours bike restorations than I do, expressed some concern about my coming to bed reeking of gasoline. I swore some dark and bloody oaths that I would de-reek myself thoroughly when finished, stepped outside, and proceeded to pull the fuel tank.

Motorcycles, especially old motorcycles, are a kind of sponge made of aluminum and gasoline. Warner brothers would have had no problem making a cartoon of me, the Hapless Wrencher Trying Not To Get Smelly, as I promptly managed to dump a tablespoon of gas from the left float bowl onto my shoe. And dribbled a stream of gas down my forearm to my elbow, as I pulled the fuel line. And bathed my hands in a cold, greasy bath as I emptied the contents of the tank into a red plastic Jerry can. (Speaking of Jerry, our neighbor came and added to the excitement by standing nearby, calmly chatting and smoking a cigarette, causing cartoony beads of sweat to leap from my forehead.)

I managed to change the rubber sleeves connecting the carburetor to the air intake, and the cylinder head to the carburetor, which was very satisfying — the old rubber sleeves were old and busted, and crunched audibly when distorted. I also installed an inline fuel filter, which will help protect from trip-ending problems due to rust in the gas tank. Having had enough excitement, I put the dripping tank back on the frame (giving Jerry a wide berth), covered the bike against rain, and walked back into the house. At this point, visible stink rays were emanating from every part of my body. Kate and I have a very small house, and it only takes one or two stink rays to make a BIG difference in the internal atmosphere. Hands in pockets (to reduce the amount of surface exposure), I turned the bathroom fan on “high” and commenced emergency decontamination.

Here are the steps I took to try to de-stench myself:

  • Scrubbed entire body twice with Dove moisturizing soap. Effect: none.
  • Re-scrubbed using some kind of tea soap discovered in the hall closet. Effect: small reduction in gas smell, addition of tea scent.
  • Washed hands and hair using smelliest shampoo in bathroom. Problem: household lifestyle choices do not include especially smelly shampoo. Effect: negligible.
  • Exited shower, evaluated results. Problem: remains. Hands still gloved with hydrocarbons.
  • Getting desparate, rinsed hands twice with Listerine mouthwash. Effect: bizarre.
  • Washed hands four times with anti-bacterial liquid bathroom soap. Effect: even worse. Unrelated consumer product fragrances are beginning to interact, creating new and unsuspected smell possibilities.
  • Grasping at straws, now. Used odd-smelling lanolin skin cream, purchased as an experiment and rarely used. Effect: bordering on theatrical.
  • Further four washes with liquid bathroom soap. Effect: unchanged.

I walked to the living room (slowly, so as not to create telltalle air currents), and gingerly seated myself on the sofa. The cat, seated nearby, gave me a long, injured look and withdrew to the other end of the house. Kate, a longtime connosieur of garage stinks, conceded that the smell I had managed to come up with was, at least, new. Somewhere between mosquito repellent and Stilton cheese.

In future, I think that I had better confine my gasoline wading to mornings and weekends. And I’ll investigate heavily gendered barrier cream.

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