The (self service) Car Wash Blues

The siege continues…

Connections is the name of this blog. I generally see connections when I am not looking for them. I find them on highways, in the forest, at car washes, and in stories I read. They appear and I take note.

I didn’t think I could have had a more humiliating experience than after the last snowstorm when I was shoveling my front walk and had a couple of passersby shout and wave at me. With Honky Tonk Woman encouraging in my earphones, I was a bit slow on the uptake. My neighbors pointed and I looked down. Sure enough my pants were around my knees. I swallowed my pride, pulled up my pants, and waved off my neighbors as if this was expected. My long underwear saved me from hypothermia and complete loss of credibility in the neighborhood.

I am constantly underestimating myself. There is more humiliation to go around. It seems to be a weekly–if not daily–experience.

Case in point.

After many years and many more miles, I had decided it was time to sell my beloved ‘05 Mountaineer. Taking note of the hay, soil, and general grime of my work vehicle, I felt it deserved a proper wash this decade. This will be no spray-down in the driveway, I was going to a car wash!

My primary concern about washing my truck was that the road salt and grime may just be the glue that holds the doors in place and the various pipes and belts together. But my wish for a shining vehicle to pass on to another lucky gardener superseded any true worry.

Apparently midweek, midday is the time to wash your vehicle here in Maine. Not being a frequent guest at such establishments, I really didn’t understand car wash etiquette. As I arrived at the local wash-a wreck, I noticed the line snaked around the building and out into the road. I also took note of drivers with laptops and coffee, people with kids climbing over seats, and whole families watching mini tv’s in the back of the more modern vehicles. I would not have been surprised had waiters arrived at the driver side windows.

Not willing to wait in line for anything other than ice cream, (hint hint car wash owners), I discovered a self service bay available. Why are all these people waiting for the expensive wash when they can be in and out in no time? It was all the way up to 27 degrees fahrenheit and the sun was out. I’m nearly ready for little umbrellas in my cocktail.

I (a little too proudly) turned my truck into the self service bay in full view of the television watching minivan families and the work-from-car types.

I fast discovered reason one why people don’t use the self service car wash. It only takes quarters. Lots of them. Fortunately for me I did have some bills and found a quarter machine. Even though it was 27 degrees, it was still windy. The wind blew my scarf right into the quarter machine. Before I turned blue and flatlined at the carwash, I wrestled my scarf (and quarters) from the clutches of the machine, avoided eye contact with the warm happy people, and slunk back to my filthy beloved truck. I should mention that I have often contemplated dying from choking. I just always imagined it involved a last meal.

The instructions say that the two pounds of quarters it takes to wash my car lasts three minutes. Do you know how big a Mercury Mountaineer is? It took me three minutes just to walk once around my truck with the pre-wash wand. When I saw there were six more levels of wash to choose from including buff, improve, make-your-husband-proud cycles, the quarters in my head started sounding like those hitting the tin pans on slot machines. Trying to cut corners on the three minute cycle, I dumped in more money, skipped the proud-husband-cycle and chose the power wash. The rust particulates that encircled my truck (and me) created a snow globe fantasy. Lovely. By the look on the faces of the stunned families in nice vans and professionals in Audi’s, not so much. Before I could grab sufficient control of the wand, stickers from marathons I did not run were flying around as well, and the small chunks of rust were now airborne beyond my little corner of the world.

Back to avoiding direct eye contact, my peripheral vision alerted me to a woman who actually got out of her car and was standing cross-armed and tapping her foot. I waited until she turned and then noticed her Volvo had my Beach to Beacon sticker affixed to her window. Beach to Beacon is another race I didn’t run. I watched her rip it off her window and fling it toward me. But my power spray, still beyond my control, was on full speed and it sent my sticker in another direction.

I was determined to finish the job and give my ‘05 a nice clear coat. I don’t know what a clear coat is, probably a scam. But I thought there was a chance that whatever it was, it may hold all the parts together until I can sell the truck. This last cycle involved more coins and a new wand that had a half inch of ice all around it’s handle. I didn’t have time to retrieve my gloves as my last three minutes (and no more quarters) were ticking down, so I grabbed the icy clear coat distributer and lasted all of 30 seconds before I lost feeling in my hands. I guess 27 degrees is still below freezing no matter how much sun is shining.

For good measure I should mention that my shoelaces came untied at the same time I tangled the power wash wand with the clear coat wand–I was in a hurry! My inevitable fall was cut short by my half-clean truck and probably caught on any number of iphones.

What could this real life tale possibly have to do with my writing, you ask? Just like my pants falling down or my disaster at the carwash, writing is another pride-swallowing siege. You have to be brave to walk out the door every day. You have to be brave to try new things. Basically, you have to be brave to participate in the human race. And well, writers and artists, anyone who shares a part of themselves, are brave for opening up and sharing their point of view not knowing if they will be understood or appreciated.

Whether your pants are halfway down or you are publishing a book about your closest friends, cheers to you all from my little umbrella-adorned drink to yours.

Feel free to share your most embarrassing moments, c’mon, I can’t be the only one!

We have traveled many miles together–I will miss my truck!

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31 Responses to The (self service) Car Wash Blues

  1. Ellen Scott Garvey says:

    OMG Sally! Your writing is so visual. Thank you for sharing your story! A great read for sure❤️

  2. Nancy MacDonald says:

    Sally what a great end to a long work week….. thanks for making me laugh!!!!

  3. mary-jane wright says:

    I have many. I’m in selection process.

  4. Barbara Scott McGuire says:

    Sally, so wonderful! I look forward to reading more of your work!

  5. Anne says:

    HILLARIUOS! I laughed till I cried! I wish you had a video version to your blog. It would go viral on YouTube and get 100 million hits.

  6. Sally Sally says:

    Anne, I am camera shy. Who should play ME in video? I think perhaps, Julia Roberts or Meryl? I know Jane Fonda would play you in a heartbeat!

  7. Jeanne Leahy says:

    Oh my goodness!! Thanks for the chuckle! Now my mind is going back to all of my moments….too many to list but I’m sure my kids would gladly share!

  8. Barb says:

    Too funny! I laughed alot reading this! I know I have alot of embarrassing moments but off the top of my head I can’t think of any.

  9. Martha Lee says:

    Sally. You are the bravest person I know and you are SO appreciated!
    Here is one of my many embarrassing moments: After opening a can of Quaker oatmeal
    I noticed a recipe for cookies on the inside cover, it read, ” Vanishing Oatmeal Cookie Recipe”. I became totally panicked and ran to my recipe box to copy it down before it was gone. I wasn’t stoned or drunk or anything else. I realized months later it was just the name of the cookie.
    SO, I don’t even have to be brave to leave the house. Getting out of bed is the bravest thing I do every day!

  10. wendy freeman says:

    Sally Lucy!!!!
    What a great read. I’ve stopped remembering cause there are too many. Who do I ask about my most embarrassing moments?

  11. Jennifer Martin says:

    Hysterical, Sally! Here’s my most recent humiliation: I was visiting my brother and his family in California. I went to leave the house and opened the door and promptly walked into the closet. (I will be hearing about this from John literally for the rest of my life.)

  12. Penny says:

    I too have had a plethora of embarrassing and humiliating moments throughout my life. I also have three children that could most definitely write a book on many of these events. The one that stands out the most is when I took a voice class when I was a senior in college. I knew I sucked at singing but I thought the class might help me improve. The final exam was to sing in front of a large group of people. I paid the pianist and started my song. It was “Beautiful Dreamer” by Stephen Foster. There was a slight piano intro & then nothing came out of my mouth. He started over, then something came out but it was so bad I didn’t finish the song & I ran out of the auditorium past all the people & never looked back. I got a C- in the class & now only sing when I’m in my car!

    • Sally Sally says:

      OH no! How could this be the first I am hearing about this, Penny! Weren’t you a communications major? LOL!! This is so bad it’s good!

  13. Annette Zamarchi says:

    Reading this post gave me the best laugh of the past week, a much needed one at that. Who goes to a self-serve car wash when it is below freezing? Only a true Mainer, yep you have attained that status. All those lazy, warm people sitting in their cars were from away.

    My embarrassing moments….they seem to happen daily. You have inspired me – I now vow to enjoy every single one of them!

  14. Sally Sally says:

    Oh, Annette! You know as well as I that when the temps hit 27, it’s time for shorts and margaritas!

  15. Martha says:

    Hilarious! Have missed reading your writing! Did I ever tell you the story about the time I started a fire in my classroom’s trash can?

    • Sally Sally says:

      Hi Martha! No, never heard that story. I have a feeling you have quite a few stories to choose from! The fire sounds exciting, though. Did you roast marshmallows?

  16. Margaret says:

    Oh Sally I have missed reading your blog, the highlight of any day! I am still laughing. You have such a rare talent to be able to touch people with your words the way you do! Keep em coming I love how your mind works!

  17. patricia says:

    Sorry it took so long to respond but needed the time to sit and respond properly. You must know by now, I get and find your humor extremely entertaining. I will make it a point to tune into your blog more often. By now I’ve blended the falling pants with the carwash story. Had to dry my eyes to clearly keep reading.

    I too have many of life’s embarrassing moments but unfortunately a lot involve alcohol and it’s hard to remember what you have tried to forget.

    Bud I would like to share my “Bus Trip to Work” story I hope you find entertaining.

    Some may try to keep their reputation but I think I am trying to restore mine. That being said, who you refer to as little bastards, I will refer to as LD’s (little darlings)

    As we often (possibly mistakenly) do to make our LD’s life easier (to hell with me) when one of my LD’s asked to borrow my car for something “important” on a school day, I quickly decided yes you can. I will get a ride? Well I quickly decided to be a little adventurous (for me anyway because I’ve never taken public transportation alone and haven’t got on a bus since going with a group in our younger days) My intention was get up and get ready 2 hours earlier than usual and begin my journey to work. With my bag of lunch and my bag of nerves, I set out the door at 7 AM and was promptly picked up at the bottom of my steps, weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee, off to a very pleasant start. Still very nervous because I needed to make a connecting bus downtown Brockton, which admirably I succeeded and again Weeeeeeeeeeeeeee off I go heading for Easton. I had also worn my sneakers (not my office stillettoes or truthfully pumps) because the last bit of my journey would involve joyfully getting some exercise walking the last ¾ of mile as the bus did not go in to Easton (thinking their residents don’t want us Brocktonians being bused in)

    As the bus approached the intersection of Pearl Street where I had carefully planned to disembark and begin my hike to the office, with a spring in my step I began forward to request my exit from the large man driving. As I bounced down the aisle, he observed me in his rear view mirror and bellowed loudly for me to sit down. Humiliated, mortified and I think you know that all the other obedient passengers were scorning, scowling and howling with laughter at me. I rapidly retreated to the nearest seat and sunk oh so low. Weeeeeeeeeeeeeee, where the hell are we going. The driver had taken a left at the light and continued on and on, until finally pulling over at an area with a large sign “BUS STOP” (seemed like miles away). Not only would I now have to backtrack quite a distance to get back to the lights at Pearl St and then begin my walk to work but first I had to make my legs and ego bring me down that very long aisle of the bus, past the snobby experts, to the open door and fast before it closed again and drove me to looneyville. I succeeded with a curt parting comment from the driver rudely reminding me he only stops at bus stops (who knew?

    My walk was, if memory serves me, uneventful other than the dirt and dust being hailed at me by the passing vehicles hurrying to work. I too was now trying to hurry because I was now late, dusty and deflated.

    My day’s journey not over, I stepped out of the office to wait for the LD to pick me up at 3:30 with MY car. My child called me on the sidewalk at 3:50 and informed me they were stuck somewhere and would be along as soon as possible but…….. I said never mind and hailed a ride home from a coworker.
    The LD returned home shortly after me with my NEWLY DENTED vehicle which would be in the shop for a few days to a week, leaving me with “How will I get to work?”

  18. Mary says:

    Sally – I am practically peeing my pants, this was so funny! The visuals were quite stunning as others have pointed out.

    Many embarrassing moments here I could share, but one of my faves as a professional was in my role as a RN working for a joint replacement surgeon. I was booking a patient for knee replacement surgery (mind you, a patient who was an above the knee amputee, so clearly only had one knee to replace…do you see where I’m going with this?….) and I asked her “so which knee are you having replaced?” It was one of those moments when the split second those words came out of my mouth, I REALLY wanted to do a take back. Well, thankfully the patient and her family members present had a good sense of humor as we all had a good laugh over that one. Wowza. Kind of funny but certainly not one of my shining moments in my 31 year nursing career!

    Sorry to hear of your parting with the Mountaineer. You are sure welcome to borrow our Maine-rusted ‘02 Toyota Tundra anytime for gardening pursuits. Somehow, it, miraculously, continues to pass inspections! Hugs to you, my friend!!

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