Some places strange wintertime activities come and go, while some places strange wintertime activities become icons. Mandatory Milwaukee is all about the latter. Join us as we revisit beloved and well-worn local staples with fresh eyes, and explore how they might figure in the city’s future talk about kicking icy chunks of slush out of your vehicle’s wheel wells.
Poke around the weird-but-not-too-weird corners of Reddit and you’ll find Oddly Satisfying. “For those little things that are inexplicably satisfying,” reads the subreddit’s description. Popular posts include a guy unclogging a massive backyard drain, a horse having its hooves cleaned, and a “perfectly peeled slice of mandarin.” Behold:
While someone may have already done it, allow us to add another inexplicably satisfying thing to the list: kicking icy chunks of slush out of your vehicle’s wheel wells. Or kicking icy chunks of slush off the bottom of your vehicle in general. As long as it involves icy chunks of slush, and said icy chunks of slush getting kicked.
Ah yes, is there a more weirdly enjoyable, quietly pleasurable, somewhat sinful-seeming wintertime activity to be found in Milwaukee? In Wisconsin? In any part of the country that gets a lot of snow? (Maybe call this week’s column “Mandatory Midwest.”) Just thinking about it stirs feelings of anticipation and satisfaction. It’s a lone bright spot in a long, dim winter—albeit a bright spot that’s the color of road salt and car exhaust.
You know the drill: Your vehicle has been parked outside. You approach your vehicle before your morning commute or your trip to the grocery store. (Remember morning commutes and trips to the grocery store?) You notice a dirty chunk of frozen slush clogging the space around one of your tires. You size up this enticing black-snow booger. You kick it—maybe with your toe, maybe with your heel. The lumpy mass of frozen funk falls off with a satisfying crunch and plop. You feel good. You repeat this for all four tires. You feel let down if one of your tires is gunk-free.
“Can you use a non-stick spray or WD40 spray to minimize wheel well ice buildup?” asks a blasphemous CarTalk commenter. “My kids think it is fun to walk around the car and kick the slush that has accumulated off the tire,” confesses a selfless radio DJ. “Holiday stress relief,” answers one wise woman when asked what she calls wedges of icy wheel-well buildup. (Other answers: “dinglebergs,” “tire scrapers,” “car turds.”)
Then there’s this guy, from Minnesota, who breaks down the science of subzero wheel sludge and gives the act of kicking it a name: “car chunking”:
Car Chunking involves kicking off the ice formations that form directly behind car and truck tires as a result of driving through snowy and slushy roads that have been saturated with salt and sand from Minnesota road crews. The natural rotation of vehicle tires splashes up this disgusting mixture where it adheres and solidifies in the wheel wells. These chunks are not good for one’s car as the salt and sand are corrosive to metal, at least what little metal now used in automobile construction. The chunks can get large enough to actually rub against the tires causing undo wear. Thus, the solution to this annoying problem is to kick off the ice chunks when conditions are favorable for such action.
“When conditions are favorable for such action”? When aren’t conditions favorable for such action?
Poke around the weird-but-okay-it-is-pretty-weird corners of YouTube and you’ll find videos of ear wax removal. (Sorry.) “LARGE CHUNKS OF EAR WAX REMOVED FROM BOTH EARS,” reads one video title. “30 MINS OF EAR WAX REMOVALS” reads another. Then there’s “ONE OF OUR MOST DIFFICULT EAR WAX REMOVALS,” which boasts nearly 14 million (!) views:
What’s the attraction? And what’s the connection to kicking icy chunks of slush out of your vehicle’s wheel wells? It all goes back to that “oddly satisfying” feeling of relief, release, and accomplishment. What was once blocked is now unblocked. What was once clogged is now unclogged. Your ears can hear again. Your wheels can spin again. Your winter, for a few glorious seconds, can be fun again. Remember when winter was fun? Yeah, so do we.
Keep kicking, Milwaukee.
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