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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.


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 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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