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Zen and the Art of Cringing at the Washee Quickee
It’s a beautiful, clear autumnal morning, a morning so bright with sunlight and particulate-free air that I can immediately spot one of the horrors of Fall…my filthy automobile.
Yep, the ol’ Sable is solid white, meaning that if I wear my contact lens and gaze objectively at the car’s metal surface, I come to realize that nobody else knows that this vehicle is white. Layers of grime and dust create a new color that is not only indescribable but probably unpatentable.
Every few years I treat myself to a Cleansing of the Station Wagon—about the same length of time it takes to rev up enough gumption to cross the street in front of my shop and get a shoe shine at the Goodyear Shoe Hospital.
So, I gird my courage and head for the Washee Quickee Car Wash, hoping that the scrawny, grouchy old man isn’t on duty like last time.
Jumpstarting my Time Machine I quickly adjust the year-o-meter and glide back to the experience of my last visit to Washee Quickee, which has been in business since the 1950′s. I can only recall being repelled by Mr. Grouchy, who, while dabbing at spots here and there on the car, lets out a constant stream of profanity and scatalogical references that might insult a millionaire rapper. He seems mad, angry, mean-spirited and ready to strangle anybody who gets close, so I slink away and hide at the front office till the car is paroled back into my care.
This guy failed to show up for the Washee Quickee public relations seminar.
Anyhow, being basically an optimist, today I decide to risk a car wash, hoping that the facility has changed hands or that there’s been some kind of turnover in personnel.
There’s no simple way to determine the System at Washee Quickee on the first visit—you just have to figure it out. The entrance is complicated and umarked and the staff rolls its collective eyes when you don’t know the rules.
“Turn off the engine! Roll up the windows! Put it in neutral. Leave the keys! Get out!”
These are the barked instructions, only they roll rapidly off the tongue and overlap each other so that you have to have them repeated once or twice to make sure you are following the rules. When you turn your car over to a stranger for 15 minutes, you want to get it back—you don’t want to lose it on a technicality.
Even though the quality of gruffness is still at its usual high level, at least the grouchy old man is nowhere to be seen, so you count your blessings and abandon your vehicle.
Up front, in the moldy-fragranced waiting area, there’s a TV blaring, a couple of men are staring at the tube, where people are shouting profanities and punching each other—stand-ins for the grouchy old man.
I look at the clerk window and see that no-one is on duty. I peer around to find somebody who will take my money. A woman is sitting in the back of the office with her back to me, gazing at a computer screen. I wait a minute or two, give up, and head for a chair, at which point the woman yells, “This is where you pay!” Like my elementary school teachers, she has rear-view vision.
I pay and plop myself down with a copy of a three-year-old ESPN magazine. The employees wandering in and out are cordial, as are the waiting customers. I can get through this!
Out front of Washee Quickee, once my car is delivered in whitened condition, I notice a long streak of grime that hasn’t been touched. The employee quickly makes it disappear, explaining, “Them guys (the ones within the car wash) don’t notice nothin’.”
I thank him profusely and tip him, grateful for having survived another trip to the nether world of car washery.
“Your car is clean!” Liz notices with delight that night. She is relieved that her embarrassment level will be reduced a few points next time she rides with me.
And, for a few days, I drive around feeling like I’ve just had a great shoe shine
© 2013 A.D. by Jim Reed