Sunday, May 31, 2009

Brushes & bubbles & car washes: Oh my!

I drop off my son at volleyball practice and think, "Hmm. I do believe I have time to get my car washed."

So I pull into my old fave place. I expect the person with the clipboard will approach me, as he always does. He will write down my license-plate number, as he always does. He will ask what sort of wash I want, as he always does.

I'll look at the choice and pick the same. Yes, as I always do. He'll say: "Fragrance?" I'll say, "Um....lemon-lime."

Today though, I was one of only two cars there. Nobody approached me with a clipboard; instead, I was signaled to drive to where the vacuuming usually began. There, a friendly fellow with a belly and a mustache told me the name of the place had changed, and so had the manner of operation.

"You stay in your car as it's washed from the outside," he said, gesturing to what has always been the secret cleaning tunnel where the car-wash drivers went. I looked and saw larger-than-life brushes and tsunami sprays of water. I knew I was in trouble.

"What if I panic while I'm in there?" I asked, only half kidding.

He laughed. "Oh, it's fun!" he assured me. "You'll see those big ol' brushes descending on your car and all the soap suds and it'll be really great!"

I knew I was in trouble. Still, I smiled (albeit nervously) and slowly drove to the entrance. The sign blinked: "Foot off brake. Put car in neutral."

I did as told. And then -- omigosh. Here they came. Huge brushes descending on me and my car. There was no escape. None. No one would hear me if I screamed. If I rolled down the windows, soap would no doubt fill the car and my lungs. Either way, I was doomed.

So I did the only thing I could. I squeezed my eyes shut, leaned onto the passenger seat, and I called my sister Susan.

"You are the only person in the entire world who will appreciate what I am going through," I said, laughing so I wouldn't start to scream or sob.

She appreciated every bubble, every swipe of the guillotine brushes. She stayed with me. After about three hours (ok, three minutes), I began to see, quite literally, light at the end of the soapy tunnel.

I felt as if I had just been on a roller coaster: Terrified. Shaking. Vowing never to do that sort of thing again.

As I was sitting outside, saying survivor prayers to the heavens, I watched a man get out of his fresh-from-the-tunnel car. He looked a bit shaken. I tried to make empathetic eye contact, but he was focused on merely putting one step in front of the other.

And, no doubt, vowing to keep a bottle of Windex and a roll of paper towels in his car. Cheaper than a car wash and, yes, far less terrifying.

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