Anxiety at the Car Wash

Inside the Wash (from Wikpedia)

…Let me tell you it’s always cool
And the boss don’t mind sometimes if you act the fool

At the car wash
Whoa whoa whoa whoa
Talkin’ about the car wash, girl
Come on, ya’all and sing it for me…

Rose Royce, Car Wash

Last night I got my car washed at the place by my grocery store. It had been a week since I had been there — a long week of avoiding the place in spite of the grime covering my car. See, I learned a very important lesson a week ago at the car wash:

It is very important to put your car into Neutral.

I could blame my experience on the Prius’ miniature/toy stick shift next to the steering wheel. I mean, all you need to do is tap — yes, tap — the knob to the left to shift from Drive into Neutral. I did this… I just didn’t double check to make sure that the tap worked. So the next thing I know I’m cruising into the car wash thinking, “Gee, this is moving fast…Wait! Why am I about to crash into the car in front of me?!!”

I did not crash into the car in front of me; because of quick reflexes I braked. Note that “quick reflexes” don’t necessarily equal “smart brain” because it didn’t occur to me that my Neutral tappy-tap hadn’t worked, or that I had not actually shifted out of Drive. I assumed that something was wrong with the car wash — robotics gone wild! So, after letting up on the brake some, the next thing I know I’m about ready to ram into the car in front of me again.

The attendant, a burly sort of fellow, ran into the office to shut off the system and came over to yell at me to back up. I cringed, backed up and made sure my tap worked this time. He started the wash again. From my rearview mirror I could see him shaking his head and muttering.

Then I learned another important lesson:

The car wash runs on a timer.

Since I had not exactly followed the directions and the angry attendant had to restart everything, my car proceeded through but ended up half-covered in suds because the timing was all off. I guess I thought maybe it used pressure sensors, but, honestly, I hadn’t spent much time thinking about it before this. Who knew? I was too embarrassed to go back again and drove off.

Fast forward a week.

Last night I went back to the same car wash. I was relieved there was a different gruff attendant on duty, but I felt anxious all the same. My car (in Neutral) rolled in without incident, but right away I noticed bright headlights in my rearview mirror and saw that an equally dumbass driver behind me was about to do the same thing I had done! The attendant ran into the office to halt the wash, and the other driver backed up. I had only gone a few feet, but when the wash started up again it was like my car was moving in slow mo, like the machines just gave up on us humans. I started to feel panicky.

I got through to the other side, but the timing was off again and I could see soap still on the tail end of my car.

Five dollars or not, I ain’t going back there again. Too hard on my nerves. Too much bad, soapy juju.

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15 thoughts on “Anxiety at the Car Wash

  1. Twice in one month?? Twice in one fiscal quarter?!? You’re a maniac, woman! I’ve simply given up. Next time I’m buying a dirt-colored car.

  2. I think the employees at the Butler car washes must have more experience than those at yours, because they always, always remind me to put the car in neutral.

    (I’m trying to think of a way to say “Or maybe they think I look absentminded.” But there’s no way for me to say that without also insulting you too. Humor is hard.)

    Seriously though, if those guys weren’t there, taking my money and checking that my windows were rolled up and roof sealed, I would totally have a mildewed car interior. Better than a rumpled bumper, but not much.

    My car is a stick shift, so there’s little chance of me crashing into the forward car. I could definitely stall though, and then i don’t know what would happen.

  3. Liz: I know! What was I thinking?!

    Cindy: It’s ok to say those things. After all, this is only the latest of my many dork-filled moments. Before I started writing I didn’t realize I was such good blog material! 🙂

  4. I hadn’t had my car washed in months because of the drought — doing my part for the conservation effort, you know! But then finally my husband broke down and took it to one of those automatic places — and proceeded to break the antenna off my car!! That was a month ago. Do I have a new antenna yet? No. I do not. Grrrr…..

  5. curt says:

    susan — you just let me know which of those attendants did the deed and I will more than happily rip him a new one. I have noticed on the few occasions that I’ve taken my car over there that these rhodes scholars have a “holier than thou” attitude, so I’m just looking for an excuse….

    I am sure that you are not the first and, thanks to your trip there again last night, you’re not the last one to have had this issue at their facility.

  6. Bad, soapy juju…

    Girl, you crack me up.

    I can’t even remember when my car was last washed. How sad is that? But the kids really love that they can write their names on the sides now!

  7. I own an all white vehicle and it’s dirty as sin, on the outside that is…I’m not a slovenly person, I just prefer to let nature wash my car off for me. 🙂

    I probably wouldn’t go back there again either…doesn’t sound like it’s worth the stress.

  8. Since the person behind you on the most recent trip made the same mistake you did on the previous one, that must say something about the knuckleheads on staff.

    Other than the toy stick shift, are you happy with the Prius? Would you recommend it?

  9. Co-worker says:

    Susan,
    Long time reader, first time commenter.
    I go there all the time and the thinner, disheveled man usually reminds me to put my car in neutral, oh ABOUT 10 TIMES. He tried this on my husband once and my husband yelled back I KNOW!
    I usually am suckered in to purchase the car wash when filling up, hey it is a simple push of the button, don’t fall for it. The code expires in 14 days and usually there is 12 days of snow and 2 days of lines so I don’t make the expiration and am out $5 without getting some suds on my car.
    The one gas station further down the street is $5 too and you can only get 1 car in at a time, it has the roll down garage door.

  10. Just what I needed…what a hoot! My car is silver but looks white most of the time. It’s embarassing and I only tend to wash it when I’m going on a date…it will likely be dirty for a while.

  11. Madame: I can unscrew my antenna, but I’ve chanced going through car washes a few times without doing that. After reading your comment I think I better.

    Curt: Please no violence! Can’t speak for the attendant and driver from a few nights ago, but my gruff dude DID tell me to put my car in neutral (or he at least mumbled it to me). I agree the employees are quite a group over there, but I might be bitter, too, standing outside all winter long.

    Tonya, Vicious Headbutt, and Writesome: I know, I know. Next time buy a lighter colored car — or keep it dirty! (And Writesome, stop that silly talk about no dates 🙂 )

    Terry: I really do like the Prius. One of my first posts was about the car; I’ll send it to you and a few other links. Folks, let me just say this: outside of the trunk, it has the same interior space as my Outback had…and I only have to buy gas about every 2 weeks. 42 MPG on a regular basis. Need I say more?

    Co-worker: Thanks for commenting — took me a while to figure out who you are! 😉 I get suckered into buying a wash every time I fill up with gas over there. I’ll be stronger next time and go down the street instead. It will be better for my nerves!

  12. Andrea says:

    I had no idea you’re supposed to put your car in neutral for a car wash. Totally just learned something new. I’m usually broke and have to wash it myself.

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