The (Self Service) Car Wash Blues

Connections is the name of this blog. I generally see connections when I am not looking for them. I find them on highways, in the forest, at car washes, and in stories I read. They appear and I take note.

I didn’t think I could have had a more humiliating experience than after the last snowstorm when I was shoveling my front walk and had a couple of passersby shout and wave at me. With Honky Tonk Woman encouraging in my earphones, I was a bit slow on the uptake. My neighbors pointed and I looked down. Sure enough my pants were around my knees. I swallowed my pride, pulled up my pants, and waved off my neighbors as if this was expected. My long underwear saved me from hypothermia and complete loss of credibility in the neighborhood.

I am constantly underestimating myself. There is more humiliation to go around. It seems to be a weekly–if not daily–experience.

Case in point.

After many years and many more miles, I had decided it was time to sell my beloved ‘05 Mountaineer. Taking note of the hay, soil, and general grime of my work vehicle, I felt it deserved a proper wash this decade. This will be no spray-down in the driveway, I was going to a car wash!

My primary concern about washing my truck was that the road salt and grime may just be the glue that holds the doors in place and the various pipes and belts together. But my wish for a shining vehicle to pass on to another lucky gardener superseded any true worry.

Apparently midweek, midday is the time to wash your vehicle here in Maine. Not being a frequent guest at such establishments, I really didn’t understand car wash etiquette. As I arrived at the local wash-a wreck, I noticed the line snaked around the building and out into the road. I also took note of drivers with laptops and coffee, people with kids climbing over seats, and whole families watching mini tv’s in the back of the more modern vehicles. I would not have been surprised had waiters arrived at the driver side windows.

Not willing to wait in line for anything other than ice cream, (hint hint car wash owners), I discovered a self service bay available. Why are all these people waiting for the expensive wash when they can be in and out in no time? It was all the way up to 27 degrees fahrenheit and the sun was out. I’m nearly ready for little umbrellas in my cocktail.

I (a little too proudly) turned my truck into the self service bay in full view of the television watching minivan families and the work-from-car types.

I fast discovered reason one why people don’t use the self service car wash. It only takes quarters. Lots of them. Fortunately for me I did have some bills and found a quarter machine. Even though it was 27 degrees, it was still windy. The wind blew my scarf right into the quarter machine. Before I turned blue and flatlined at the carwash, I wrestled my scarf (and quarters) from the clutches of the machine, avoided eye contact with the warm happy people, and slunk back to my filthy beloved truck. I should mention that I have often contemplated dying from choking. I just always imagined it involved a last meal.

The instructions say that the two pounds of quarters it takes to wash my car lasts three minutes. Do you know how big a Mercury Mountaineer is? It took me three minutes just to walk once around my truck with the pre-wash wand. When I saw there were six more levels of wash to choose from including buff, improve, make-your-husband-proud cycles, the quarters in my head started sounding like those hitting the tin pans on slot machines. Trying to cut corners on the three minute cycle, I dumped in more money, skipped the proud-husband-cycle and chose the power wash. The rust particulates that encircled my truck (and me) created a snow globe fantasy. Lovely. By the look on the faces of the stunned families in nice vans and professionals in Audi’s, not so much. Before I could grab sufficient control of the wand, stickers from marathons I did not run were flying around as well, and the small chunks of rust were now airborne beyond my little corner of the world.

Back to avoiding direct eye contact, my peripheral vision alerted me to a woman who actually got out of her car and was standing cross-armed and tapping her foot. I waited until she turned and then noticed her Volvo had my Beach to Beacon sticker affixed to her window. Beach to Beacon is another race I didn’t run. I watched her rip it off her window and fling it toward me. But my power spray, still beyond my control, was on full speed and it sent my sticker in another direction.

I was determined to finish the job and give my ‘05 a nice clear coat. I don’t know what a clear coat is, probably a scam. But I thought there was a chance that whatever it was, it may hold all the parts together until I can sell the truck. This last cycle involved more coins and a new wand that had a half inch of ice all around it’s handle. I didn’t have time to retrieve my gloves as my last three minutes (and no more quarters) were ticking down, so I grabbed the icy clear coat distributer and lasted all of 30 seconds before I lost feeling in my hands. I guess 27 degrees is still below freezing no matter how much sun is shining.

For good measure I should mention that my shoelaces came untied at the same time I tangled the power wash wand with the clear coat wand–I was in a hurry! My inevitable fall was cut short by my half-clean truck and probably caught on any number of iphones.

What could this real life tale possibly have to do with my writing, you ask? Just like my pants falling down or my disaster at the carwash, writing is another pride-swallowing siege. You have to be brave to walk out the door every day. You have to be brave to try new things. Basically, you have to be brave to participate in the human race. And well, writers and artists, anyone who shares a part of themselves, are brave for opening up and sharing their point of view not knowing if they will be understood or appreciated.

Whether your pants are halfway down or you are publishing a book about your closest friends, cheers to you all from my little umbrella-adorned drink to yours.

Feel free to share your most embarrassing moments, c’mon, I can’t be the only one!

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Sally Lucy Writes

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