The Wondrous World of the Car Wash

By , Louisville, KY
What seems to be an endless line of cars slowly creeps closer to a dark open tunnel that lies ahead. I twiddle my fingers in tune with the loud beeps and chirps of the machinery as I wait for time to pass by. There are signs and posters of all shapes and sizes along the way as we inch closer to the wide open mouth. As if all hope is lost, it is finally our turn.

My mom steers the car onto a metal track to keep the car in place as it makes its journey down the tunnel of the car wash. The tunnel on the inside isn’t frightening at all compared to its intimidating outer appearance. The walls are painted a silvery white, with a single maroon strip lining the center of the wall. The metal track that directs the car through the tunnel is pink and blue and covered with soap suds and pools of water. Men in royal blue uniforms and khaki pants stand on each side of the car spraying it down with pressure washer guns, removing the caked-in, dirt, before it goes through. Red and white spinning brushes start to rotate as the supervisor pushes buttons to begin the automatic process. A once clear windshield turns a mucky pink as soap covers the front of the cab. Inside the car, the vibrating sounds are thunderous and unexpected. A surprising jolt of the car shocks us, taking the car slowly down the narrow way. I lay back in my stiff leather seat as we continue to experience the wondrous world of the carwash.

Our car bumps along the track as long vertical microfiber cloths slam into the windshield, purging dirt with every swish of the machinery. Multicolored soap suds are splattered onto the surface of the car, filling the inside of the cab with a sweet vanilla aroma. Inside the car, the temperature has become rather warm and humid, due to the heated water slamming into it. Colorful flashing lights flicker in the streaked windshield, making the car illuminate as we proceed. Lights cast long shadows along the walls of the tunnel as our car barrels along. Spinning brushes sweep by the car as if to say hello in a sly manner. Yellow and blue metal archways rain water on the sudsy car ridding it of its rainbow parasite. There is a sudden silence as the high-power blowers warm up. Loud gusts of the blowers scatter water off the car’s surface, creating puddles on the cement floor as water droplets fall to the ground. Large drains are positioned under the center of the car to prevent flooding. Violent waves of water, that form in the drainage ditch, look as if a sudden hurricane has arrived. Finally a great garage door opens up, overwhelming the dim tunnel with sudden daylight. Blinking lights on a sign outside the tunnel, flash thanking us for our business.

My mom puts the car in drive, and pulls it around to the side of the building to perform detail work to the interior of the car. As I exit the passenger seat, I step out onto the pavement to witness the beautiful black vehicle shimmering in the intense sunlight. Remaining water droplets glimmer in the beams of light as they slide down the curved door. After stepping outside of the freshly cleaned car, one is hit with an unforgettable scent of clean clothes and car exhaust. Five dollars does not compare to the wondrous product left in our midst.

The exterior building is rough-brick painted light beige. The roof is new and black which gives it a clean crisp look. Vertical tinted windows line the outer wall, so all activity can be observed properly from the inside office. Silver and blue vacuums and large gray garbage cans are positioned in single file rows, to assist car owners in eliminating the dirt and trash forming in the back seats of their cars. Cement parking slots are separated so parking is not a hassle. A vending machine is located near the side door of the wash. This vending machine is unlike any other. Candies and goodies are not sold here, instead goodies for your car. This includes leather seat polish, exterior hood and trunk shine, rags and towels, and car fresheners of all scents. The sidewalk, leading up to it, is very secure and neat with cement blocks positioned adjacent to the next. Yellow painted parking lines are chipping and wearing down, due to years of water and sun damage. Big orange overhead lights hang along the roof of the structure rusting over time.

My mom hands me a towel, from the vending machine, and politely asks me to wipe down the remaining water. Droplets are swept away as the towel overpowers them. I feel like an expert as the somewhat wet car meets the dry towel in my hand. There is a great sense of accomplishment and pride to see the nearly finished product unfolding before me. All of a sudden, a big warm hand clutches my shoulder. I turn with surprise, to see only the sweet happy face of the carwash owner and operator, my dad. I am filled with delight as I gaze up at his beaming face and greet him with a massive hug. Together we quickly wipe down the remaining water, making sure that every inch of the car is streak-free and glistening. There is always a feeling of joy as I work side by side with my dad. As we work I recall numerous times in which my father mentored me in the correct method of wiping down cars. The squeaks of the wet towel and loud blows of the vacuums harmonize as we work.

Finally, the detail has been successfully completed. The car is washed, dried, and vacuumed. I step back to admire the completed work. No streaks, no droplets, no scratches, all is well. Clearly, any car can be categorized as stylish when put through a good wash. I place my hand on the shiny black handle of the SUV, and hear the familiar pop as the latch unhitches the door. My mom slides into the seat and turns the key. A rush of energy slithers through the wires, igniting the engine as we begin our journey. The operator sees us off, and waves all the way down the drive as if we will never see each other again. I lay back in the slick leather seat and inhale the new car scented air freshener, as it dangles in Christmas tree form on the rear-view mirror. As we pull out of the lot, I turn to the left to see the LED sign change to it’s familiar quote. “A car kept clean is a pleasure to be seen.”





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