The Blue Thumb folks would have my head for this, but after 16 years of refusing to wash a car for any reason other than increasing the vehicle’s value on trade-in day, I have fallen hopelessly in love with my local car wash.
I know that’s terrible, and that I ought to be washing the car over grass, with an old rag and a bucket of biodegradable castile-soap suds, but I can’t help it — I freakin’ love the car wash.
It all started innocently enough.
I took the Starlight Express to the car wash on Southwest Boulevard (a.k.a. Route 66) one afternoon a few weeks ago to vacuum the dog hair off the upholstery before I gave someone a ride to church. I had a handful of quarters left when I finished, and the car’s exterior was pretty dirty, so I decided to pull into one of the bays and hose it off while I was there.
I’ve never been a big fan of those automatic drive-through car washes. There’s just something vaguely unnerving about being trapped in the car in a little building with big cascades of water and giant brushes and enormous rollers bombarding you from all directions. But I have several fond memories of the hose-it-off-yourself kind of car wash.
Mom used to take me along when she washed the car when I was little, and I always thought it was cool to sit inside and watch the water hit the windows. Twenty years later, when Ron and I got married, my little brother and his best friend decorated Ron’s car in honor of the occasion. Ron eventually got tired of driving around with “WAY TO GO, RON! GIT ‘ER DONE!” all over the windows, so a day and a half into our honeymoon, he declared the graffiti a safety hazard and drove us to a car wash to hose it off. To this day, every time I see a car wash, I smile, remembering our honeymoon and Oliver and Aaron’s handiwork.
But it’s not just the memories. There is something innately fun about going to the car wash. I don’t know why. Washing a car with a bucket and a hose isn’t fun. But the power washer? That’s a whole ‘nother matter.
Maybe it has something to do with my Tim Allen-like affinity for power tools. Maybe it’s the fact that in this age of automatic car washes at every gas station, the self-operated car wash feels like a connection to another time. Maybe it’s just the realization that I’m doing something Mom did when I was little bitty, which is sort of an affirmation that I am, in fact, a grownup. (I had lofty aspirations when I was little, but my fondest dream was just to be a grownup.) Or maybe it’s just that I’m a hopeless nerd who finds happiness in really stupid places.