Car wash confidential

PHOTO: mirsasha, Flickr CC

Aaron J. Brown

Aaron J. Brown is an Iron Range blogger, author, radio producer and columnist for the Hibbing Daily Tribune.

For me, one of the big realizations of summer is that my car is filthy. I don’t just mean dirty. No, I mean that I can grow potatoes in my undercarriage.

I live at the end of a long dirt road in Itasca County, a place where the miles of dirt road exceed the number of people who wrap their sweaters around their waist like a belt. Point is, I’ve learned not to get too worried about a little dirt.

Every once in a while, however, we go to Duluth or Minneapolis for some reason. In order not to stand out among the sophisticated gentry of urban America, we get a car wash before we leave. We have to drive through Grand Rapids or Hibbing to get wherever we’re going anyway, so it’s no big deal.

Except for this. Getting your car washed in town means you have to wait in line behind the townies. And I’ve got to get real here. I’m speaking truth now. I know that some of you are townies. We need to talk.

It never fails to amaze me how clean the cars are waiting in line ahead of us at the car wash. They’re gorgeous. My car will look twice as dirty as those cars before I even get to my mailbox AFTER I get my car washed. I never understand why people pay to wash clean cars. Just use the squeegee on your windshield. Filthy, filthy people wait behind you.

I always struggle with the choices you have to make going into the automated car wash.

You all know there’s Basic. Sometimes they call the basic wash the Bronze, the Olympic medal you get when you *almost* almost win.

Then you’ve got Silver, or the “better” wash. Silver is the wash you get when you can’t make important life decisions.

Then you’ve got Gold, or the “Best” wash. That’s got all the stuff from before plus they wax your car. I’m not sure that wax squirted from a hose is as good as the Mr. Miyagi “wax on, wax off” deal you do at home, but it’s a conceit. We’re asked to buy in and so I do.

Some places go a step further. There’s Platinum. Max Wash. The Works. Alpha and Omega wash. That’s usually $10 and you’re in there longer than it takes to get a haircut. Since I only get my car washed once or twice a year I’ll often spring for this. They treat you different. You’re a high roller. As long as you hold that five-digit code, you’re a somebody.

My favorite thing about the fancy car wash is when they spray the multi-color formula over the entire surface of your car. It’s like sticking your face into a wad of cotton candy. Or like driving through a little girl’s birthday cake. Or like being inside a unicorn’s stomach. And then (BLECH!) you emerge.

The most challenging part of the car wash is the drying sequence at the end. We are modern people in modern times. The automatic car wash is a machine that caters to YOU. You can play games on your phone or jam with the radio while the thing does its job. But then all of a sudden CHHHOOOOOOOOO! The drier starts. The little light turns green and you have 105 seconds to completely dry your car. NO MORE! NO EXCEPTIONS!

You turn your car on in a hurry, the way they do in zombie movies. The clock goes tick, tick, tick. You put it in gear and ease your way forward BUT THERE IS A METAL THING TO DRIVE OVER and you have to apply the gas BUT NOT TOO MUCH OH MY GOD! Tick tick tick. And you’re moving forward. BUT YOU ALREADY SCREWED UP AND OVERSHOT THE FRONT BUMPER. You slow down. Now it’s a math problem. How long IS this car and how long will it take to reach Point B from Point A if I drive at 0.58 miles per hour?

Never much good at higher math, I typically miss the perfect dry.

It’s OK. I’ll have another chance. Maybe next year. If the line isn’t too long.

Aaron J. Brown is an author and college instructor from northern Minnesota’s Iron Range. He writes the blog and hosts the Great Northern Radio Show on Northern Community Radio. This piece first appeared in the Sunday, June 25, 2017 edition of the Hibbing Daily Tribune. It was based on a monologue performed in the June 17, 2017 Great Northern Radio Show.

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