Bertha’s Age Spots and Nostalgia

On the list of products that excite me… adhesive remover was NOT one. Until yesterday.

I have a used van I bought from a local transportation company last October.

It’s a high-top conversion van with a lift — that’s fancy speak for: I can ride in my wheelchair without hitting my head on the van’s ceiling. (Really revs my engine, if you know what I mean.)

I named her Bertha. Because she’s large and in charge.

While she’s not pretty on the outside, she’s pretty on the inside (hello, new motor & transmission) and does her job.

Bertha had stickers that identified her as part of the transportation company’s fleet. (I pretended they were her old-lady age spots.)

The company removed the stickers before I bought her. But their imprint is still visible. So visible that people occasionally stop me and ask if I’m there to pick them up. (Like some cabby version of The Scarlet Letter.)

I decided I had no choice but to live with these imprints.

The Smashing Pumpkins described this situation perfectly…

“Despite all my rage, I am still just a rat in a cage.”

Until I Pinky-and-the-Brain my way out.

Enter my younger, car-smart cousin.

He told me about a local auto body paint shop that would have a product to remove the adhesive.

My mind was blown because I didn’t realize the imprints were ADHESIVE. And 👏 adhesive 👏 is 👏 removable 👏 (I’m not clapping to count syllables. I’m clapping because I’m happy and now YOU know it.)

So I went to the paint shop to investigate.

As soon as I rolled through the door…

A faint paint thinner scent and a faint alt-rock song sound hit me right in the memories.

And suddenly, I felt like a time traveler — transported back to art school.

Where my days started and ended with solvent fumes and guitar riffs.

Where stained coffee mugs were labeled “turpentine” so no one accidentally poisoned themselves with leftover residue.  

Where everyone lived by the shared artist’s code that nobody touches other artists’ projects, turns the CD player off, or takes credit for a technique suggestion.

At that moment — if nostalgia had a look, it would’ve been my face.

I quickly composed myself and asked about removing the adhesive. An employee took a small container out to my van and showed me the removal technique. And I left the paint shop excited because Bertha’s age spots will be gone. And a little happier than when I went in because of fond memories.

You know what makes your readers a little happier?

Nostalgia — some combination of 1 ) tangible objects, 2 ) moments that can’t be recreated, and 3 ) people or places you miss.

This culminates in a sensory experience that triggers positive emotions.

Like my example of smelling paint thinner & hearing an alt-rock song AND being transported back to art school.

Try this copy edit tip the next time you want to give your readers a sensory experience that triggers positive emotions.

Just make sure your trip down memory lane is reflective nostalgia and not restorative nostalgia. Reflective nostalgia makes your readers want to savor the emotions evoked by the memories. Restorative nostalgia makes them want to recreate the past which is neither pleasant nor emotionally healthy.