Tuesday, November 20, 2012

I got stuck in the car wash today

Wow! I can't believe I haven't posted anything in the last two months! I've got to get my priorities straight--too much time on breast cancer advocacy and not enough on fun, quirky observations.

Today, armed with my list of the 99 things that I still must do for the Thanksgiving holiday, I ran into a roadblock. I got stuck in the car wash. It was one of those drive-throughs where you sit with the car in neutral as spongy tentacles of a soapy octopus apparatus envelop your car and a track slowly pulls you along from spraying to sponging to brushing to the final phase of an air jetted wind tunnel. Many years ago, vying for parent of the year award,  I remember being quite oblivious to the potential fright this could engender in a small child and being rewarded by the screams of a terrified toddler, as if this was indeed the attack of a giant octopus.

As I drove around behind the gas station to the car wash entrance, I had a bad feeling. The distracted attendant was in a side lot, busy cleaning the windows on his own car and clearly annoyed that I interrupted his paper toweling ritual. He took my $5 dollar bill, hosed off the car and hit the conveyor belt buttons, returning to his post of wiping water marks from his car. I sat there a minute and then blew the horn. Lots of machinery clanging and moving but I was still sitting in my car going nowhere.

He shuffled over and hit a few more buttons and then I was off and running, embracing the monster. A few feet into the tunnel and I stopped again. I assumed a vigilant employee would have been monitoring my progress, but--- No. He had returned to his own work. I blew the horn again and this time he returned with a large mallet and proceeded to bang around the general area of the tires. I was hoping two things: One that he was actually hitting the conveyor track and not my tires or hubcaps and two that he would not slip and be crushed by the rotating brushes. Perhaps, too many episodes of Dexter, but I watched closely for spurts of red instead of soapy residue. I'm not claustrophobic, but I was starting to sweat and plotted my own escape. What if the car suddenly popped a tire, jammed the machinery and the entire track twisted and threatened to crush me?

He managed to get the car moving again and the yellow mallet disappeared from sight. Wildly, I was checking my side mirrors which had already retracted and swiveling my head around to see where he had disappeared. For a rather tall, lumpy youth, he slid easily back out of the narrow confines. I'd be lying if I didn't point out that the entire car wash ride normally traverses the distance of about three car lengths, but I viewed the light at the end as a beacon of salvation. I was so close... Then the car jolted to a stop again, I beeped the horn several times and the mallet wielding attendant mysteriously re-appeared. Was this the twilight zone? Was I doomed to travel forever in a small car with the enormous black rolling brushes thwacking against the trunk of the car. I imagined the paint slowly chipping off, worn down by the incessant scraping. "Shut down the line!"

The mallet didn't work this time and he slouched past my window in search of help. The other attendant then proceeded to gesture to me in an absurd game of charades. He motioned to move the wheel left and right. I hesitated. The sign had been quite clear: foot off the brake; hands off the wheel, put it in neutral. I was suddenly an overexcited child driving my imaginary car on the kiddie rides, turning the wheel, beeping the horn, waving to Mom and Dad. I was so close to the end, the exasperated senior attendant finally gestured to put it in gear. With visions of my tires shredding, I eased into drive and tentatively lurched forward.

Freedom at last. I inspected the hubcaps and yelled to attendant #1--"Look what happened." He looked, I looked, but on closer examination most of the hubcaps had a few scrapes, as did the car in general. he shrugged and said,
"I hate this car wash."
"Roger that, buddy."

Attendant #2 asked if I had paid.
"Yes, can I have my $5 back?"
"Well, you did get your car wash," he said as he handed me the owner's number to call if I wanted to complain.
"They don't listen to us," he said. "We've been having a lot of trouble."
 But two other cars were parked by the vacuum machines, their owners whistling while they busily cleaned the interior. The sun was shining, their cars gleamed.

I hurried home, satisfied at least that the attendant never would get the water drop marks off his car. And, oh yeah, completing that list of the 99 things to guarantee a successful Thanksgiving?--not even close.