At the Carwash . . .


SUBURBAN LAKE WORTH — The first thing that happens when you go to the car wash out west here is you wait on line where you can look at a series of signs describing the different ways you can get your car washed, all of which sound thorough.

Then you get to the head of the line and the guy there asks you what you want and immediately explains “you really need” the one that costs twice as much. The one you chose is a rip-off, he intimates, so it becomes your choice to avoid being ripped off by backing out of there (there is no way) or paying twice as much as you were going to, in which case you will get a clean car.

So, by the time you have turned your car key over and interrupted the conversation of the two girls standing on the other side of the cash register inside, you already feel stupid.

Then you go outside where a slice of America, usually consisting of from three to nine people are waiting for their cars amid the din of hoses, mechanical waxing devices and foul music so loud that when workers stroll up roaring the color and make of the car they have just completed (black Jaguar! blue Hyundai!) they have to repeat it many times.

The whole process takes about an hour, so we are all good about not making eye contact with each other, because who wants to end up talking to a stranger for an hour?

Except this one guy, who made a cheerful comment about the fact that it was about to rain, and then sat down and said I don’t know if we’ve met (he did know, we hadn’t) but I’m from the car repair shop next door.

It turned out, to the great luck of people who come to this car wash, that the car repair shop, out of sheer gregariousness, had decided to give all of us a chance (one by one) to get to know them, with a deal that didn’t make any sense at all, particularly when you’ve stopped listening by around now, until he says, as if you have been nodding your head enthusiastically, “so why don’t you come over right now and sign up,” at which point I told him I’m getting ready to go to Africa for a year, which had the double benefit of being true, so not posing a threat to my Karma, and sounding like a blow-off blatant lie.

So he left, and as he did I noticed his shorts were practically in tatters, with a threadbare beginning of a whole in one back pocket and a big gaping whole in the other, which lent the whole encounter a depression-era conman feel about it.

Eventually he settled down across from me to work on a woman sitting at a round picnic table a few feet away, and around the same time he told her she have to decide “now, because we’re not doing this much longer,” I noticed he also had a big rip in the center seam of his shorts.

He noticed me, or maybe her noticing, and propped his order book in front of it, and perhaps reminded that he really needs a new pair of shorts stepped up the pressure until she rose and walked off with him.

By moments, thus, he wasn’t there when one of the four dozen or so people wearing the car wash uniform bustling around walked up to his boss, waving both arms and looking like he was about to cry, started yelling about how he had taken his car next door for an oil change and now the electronic windows don’t go up and down anymore.

Holey shorts came back just in time to miss this, and settled himself down in front of a new customer. “I don’t know if we’ve met,” he said.


One Response

  1. […] At the Carwash . . . January 2009 4 […]

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