CHEAP THRILLS AT THE CAR WASH

Life in the car wash. Photo by Maureen McFarlane.

When I was four, we spent every Sunday afternoon in West Haven. Quite frankly, every week was torture; I was bored out of my mind and would rather have been home playing. Until one spring day, when Auntie Ree loaded me into her giant Cadillac and took me to the automated car wash. She rolled up the windows and pumped the Sinatra, and the ride-through was magical. After that, I looked forward to Sundays as much as I would a trip to Disney World.

I’d forgotten this until recently. It was a rare beautiful day and my friend Mo and I were going to get our nails done—but apparently, so was everybody else in Danbury; the place didn’t have an opening. “Oh well,” she said. “I wanted to get my car washed anyway.”

My heartbeat quickened as the car cuffed up on the conveyor belt and Mo pegged the stereo, which she’d cued to Train’s “Save Me San Francisco.” Water and soap shrouded the windows, brushes thrummed on the windshield, the car shimmied—all as we slowly advanced toward the glowing portal of the exit.

Just about everyone I know—including me—seems to be undergoing transformation. There is moving, breaking up, starting over, career change, new direction. These changes, while ultimately positive, are often fraught with complicated issues and feel as though they take forever to get through. Going through the car wash was a reminder that there’s not much we can do to eliminate all the bumps along the way or speed up the process—we’ll get doused with water, beaten with brushes, and pulled on a slow-moving conveyor belt until the process is complete. The thing that’s important to remember is that eventually, we’ll reach the exit—and we’ll be a lot cleaner.

Might as well just turn up the music and enjoy the ride.

Those rag-thingies--I don't think they're called brushes anymore, are they? Anybody have any clue?--smackin' the windshield. Photo: Maureen McFarlane.

Me at the car wash. Photo: Maureen McFarlane.

The light at the end of the tunnel! Photo: Maureen McFarlane.

Maureen.

The mighty sprayers. This is when it really feels like you're inside a cocoon in a storm. Photo: Maureen McFarlane.

Another shot of the sprayers in action. Photo: Maureen McFarlane.

When the water begins to run off. Photo: Maureen McFarlane.

Here are a few songs I hold dear as “Car Wash Favorites” and the links to where you can purchase them as MP3’s from Amazon.com in case you’re interested. Feel free to put some of your own suggestions in the comments area!

“Life is a Highway,” Tom Cochrane

“This Cowboy Song,” Sting

“The Tide Will Rise,” Bruce Hornsby & the Range

“Save Me, San Francisco,” Train

“The Way You Make Me Feel,” Michael Jackson

All clean! Photo: Maureen McFarlane.

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About kristipetersenschoonover

A ghost story writer who still sleeps with the lights on, Kristi Petersen Schoonover’s fiction has appeared in countless magazines and anthologies. She has received three Norman Mailer Writers Colony Residencies, is a co-editor for Read Short Fiction, and co-hosts the Dark Discussions Podcast. Her work Skeletons in the Swimmin’ Hole is a collection of ghost stories set in Disney Parks; her horror novel, Bad Apple, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She’s also a member of the New England Horror Writers Association. More info: www.kristipetersenschoonover.com

Posted on March 31, 2010, in Deep Thoughts & Fun Stuff and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Nice. Wish there were more car washes in Jersey, but then I’d miss the Zen-like experience of doing the job myself. Thinking. Plotting. Reaching for the punchlines in life.

    • Ha! Glad you’ve got some way to at least get some time to slow down and think, Walt! I, myself, was really pissed off when I went to a car wash awhile back (it had to be ten years ago) and it was all this “brushless” stuff…and the whole ride-through was nothing but big sprays of water. I was so disappointed. Not to mention…the car did NOT come clean!

  2. I’m waiting for the beaten with brushes part to end…..

  3. You got me right through the heart when you said: These changes, while ultimately positive, are often fraught with complicated issues and feel as though they take forever to get through. Going through the car wash was a reminder that there’s not much we can do to eliminate all the bumps along the way or speed up the process—we’ll get doused with water, beaten with brushes, and pulled on a slow-moving conveyor belt until the process is complete.

    Living is a process — one cog at a time.

    Thank you for the reminder, Kaye!

    • Awesome, McKenna! Thanks for popping on here and sharing your thoughts. This particular thought is something I have to keep in mind every single day — I guess that’s why I wanted to write it. I figured, ‘if I’m going through this, I bet lots of others are, too.’ Hang in there and gimmie a shout-out when you get a chance!

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