My favorite place is not at home in front of the computer, or out on some trail somewhere, taking photos. It’s not in any city or town, in the country, or along the water, though you get close with the latter. I am in my car, but being in my car doesn’t make it my favorite place. And the place loses its magic if someone else is with me.
My favorite place is the car wash. In the middle of the car wash to be exact. I love the car wash. But before you start with, “Lady, you need a life”, give me an ear, an eye, and a sec of your time.
The excitement of the car wash starts when I move my car on to the rail and put it in neutral; I have lost all decision making power at this point except which wash I want. Do I want the wash with the pink, yellow, and blue foam, or just the pink and yellow? Do I want that clear liquid rinse they say is a wax, but how can it be when it isn’t waxy? Does my underbelly need washing? I don’t know, is my underbelly dirty?
After this decision, though, I am free from any further need for action as soon as the car starts moving forward until I respond to the bright green DRIVE light at the end.
I am isolated in the car wash. The radio is off to prevent interference with the wash sensors, and the cellphone doesn’t work through all the equipment. The wash is too short to start any task, no matter how small or trivial. If it was a bit longer, I’d feel guilty for the ‘wasted’ time, and probably whip out a notebook or some such thing, in order to do something useful. But the wash is over before this activity can be made worthwhile; so I sit and do absolutely nothing.
Nothing except watch the two young people scrub my front and back bumper and windshields to remove the corpses of tiny little creatures who zigged when they should have zagged. After that is the water spray, and I am moved to hum a note or two from “Singing in the Rain” during this event. The excitement begins to build within, anticipating what’s to follow.
First comes the big soapy strips that move back and forth across the car and take off the initial layer of dirt. They remind me of great dark blue tongues, bigger than a cat’s, even bigger than Mick Jagger’s –reaching out and licking across the glass and the metal, the tips lingering on the warm metal at the end. Following these is another shot of water, for the initial rinse, but it’s nothing to get excited about; mere foreplay made more mundane by what’s to come.
The car moves past tubes set into the wall and bright white, pink, yellow, and blue foam squirts out all over the car; pulsing to some internal beat; swirling together into a purple color that slowly drips down the sides of the windows; softly teasing small bubbles, sparkling in the light, glide past me as I look out. Always bright white, pink, yellow, and blue. Never all white, or all pink. I imagine a study was made in the past and the car wash people discovered that people respond better to different colored foam. I know I do — it wouldn’t be magical if the bubbles were all white.
But the moment doesn’t end when the foam ejection finishes. No, next comes the lighter blue yarn like threads that spin around very fast, along the the sides and top; following the contour of the car in a passionate but surprisingly gentle grasp. They start in front of my car and part ever so reluctantly as the car moves slowly forward, never losing the grip they have on the sides as they glide compellingly towards the back. At the end, they give a saucy little flip to the rear, a pat of appreciation and familiarity in passing.
Of course, once the blue threads are finished, the fun part is almost over and the excitement begins to wane. The car is rinsed with one clear water rinse and then another, followed by the wax, and though it’s pleasant, it doesn’t tingle or give one a thrill. Still, there are those fun little fans at the end, moving up and down and across the car, chasing water droplets across the hood and the windshield. A final fun and piquant moment before the green light comes on and I’m booted out.
What’s best about the car wash is that all during this experience, I don’t have to think about what tasks need finished, or what improvements need to be made in my life; who I have pleased or disappointed or let down. I don’t have to read the opinions of this wit or another, alternately cheered and depressed, calmed and angered. I don’t have to hear the bad news on the radio, or listen to even sadder news on the phone. I am slipped out of time.