Thursday, May 14, 2009

At the Carwash . . .

Am I the last car-owner in the civilized world to discover the touchless car wash? I had to stop using car washes about ten years ago because my car, a purple Dodge Neon, had a habit of moulting paint. What's more, I'm from New Jersey. Washing the car is what Sundays and AM Top 40 radio stations are for. (I can remember studying for chemistry finals and hearing the neighbors washing their cars outside my bedroom window:  "Broooce, quit standing on the @#$-ing  hose, you @#$-ing @#$#!" and "That's not how you wax a @#$-ing Mercedes, you @#$#%-ing idiot." ) 

But today I noticed that my car was filthy, and the place where I got the thing inspected offered a $5 car wash. A bargain. What I didn't realize, of course, was that I had to drive the thing through the wash myself. (The sign said "Full Service." I thought the little old guy would take care of it for me.) 

So I punched in the code number and maneuvered the car under the sprayers, shifted into park, and sat back. La, la, la. Except I couldn't relax. I suddenly had a glimmer of what old Roma dog experiences when she gets in the car. Several people have told me about the desperate, wide-eyed picture she makes, framed by the little porthole window in the back of my Toyota. Her thought balloon reads, "Help me!!", as if she were Wile E. Coyote holding a tiny, battered umbrella as a boulder falls from the sky. But I get it now. You are in the back of the car, you don't really know what's going to happen, and there are all kinds of scary noises and vibrations. The car wash had a helpful light-up menu that indicated each stage of the wash. But, see, when the windshield is all soapy, and the sprayers are gunning like Howitzers, a girl gets a little unnerved. She realizes she can't get out of the car. She thinks, "What if I have to spend the rest of my life in here?"

It's not as if I'm claustrophobic, exactly. I cruised through an MRI. For me, it was 45 minutes of bliss. All I had to do was lie down with my eyes closed, and no one bothered me to go out, to give out cookies, or to open the back door. But the car wash was different. I had a pretty good idea that this car wash would not take up the rest of my life and that the outcome would not be dire (heck, no; the car gleams! "Ting!"), but during those anxious minutes, time slowed to a bug's pace, and the air became thick with possible outcomes, all bad. And that, I suspect, is what Roma feels every time she hauls her rump into the backseat. And that's why she explodes out of it when we get to Dog Park. "Thank God! I'm free; I'm free!" she thinks. "Whatever it takes to get you through the day, baby," I think. That goes for both of us. 


  1. I loved this comparison! But a tiny part of her must still be thrill-seeking because she could just hunker down and put her paws over her eyes.

    Now I want to go to a car wash. It may have been 20 years and 4 cars ago since I used one of those drive through dealios. I did love to go with my Dad as a kid...those huge spinney blue and white brushes...

  2. Mister Car Wash on Burnet has a $9.99 car wash that includes hand drying AND vacuuming the interior. They drive the car through for you. And they accept coupons from Genie, which are easily found (let me know if you want me to bring you some) and bring the price of the wash down to a measly $5 or $6. WELL worth the price, even when you give the souls hand drying the cars a generous tip.

    I was behind you at the light at 45th and Bull Creek today and saw Roma looking plaintively out the back window. I thought of this post and it made me smile.


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