Friday night, I washed my van. It was far from exciting, which is always my preference when it comes to a drive through car wash. I did the preparatory routine things. I took down my radio antenna and made sure the windows and sun roof were closed tightly. I made sure my car was in neutral.
With all of these methodical, precautionary measures you would think I’d sail through this with ease, like most normal people. But, this particular chore causes me to break out in involuntary ticks and hives. It is still very stressful for me to submit to a car wash, and all of this stems from the traumatic experience we refer to as “The Incident.”
Two springs ago, I recall the pollen being out of control. There was a thick layer of yellow film on everything outside that had been stationary for any length of time. It got so bad that when I got in and out of my van, I could taste pollen. I could feel it sticking to my contacts, and gumming up my respiratory system. I’d had enough, so I went to the car wash near to my house.
When I pulled up to the gas station, I became confused. I’d never seen one like this before. Usually, you just pull in and it does its thing. But this one had a guard rail for my left tires to slide through. Underneath were wheels and an attached conveyor belt. For someone who is spatially challenged, this did not bode well.
I watched others handle this with ease and so gained confidence. Plus, there were detailed instructions that any elementary student could follow. Too bad I never made it past remedial classes.
As I threaded the railing with my tires and coasted up to the control box, I rolled down my window and typed in my wash code. That was where I went wrong.
My mini van has chronic PMS. How this surfaces is in its fickle way of deciding when and where the driver’s side window will go up….or not. For the past 3 months, it had been kind and willing, which lulled me into a complacent stupor. Into an arrogant blindness. Into an overconfident guise.
What happened next? My van was in neutral, the conveyor belt began pulling my van towards the mouth of the car wash, and my window would not roll up. I panicked as we crept forward. Words were yelled. Names were condemned. For some reason, opening the door felt like a good place to start. I planted my left leg outside the car as if it were an anchor. With my right leg, I pressed down on the brake, and just held on, trembling.
After the first minute of slowly inching forward, my right leg began to ache from the tension of my body being split down the middle. I was never good at gymnastics. As a matter of fact, every time I did a cart-wheel the entire gym class stopped to gawk and then laugh. But, oh if they could see me now. Doing a split to defy all elementary school efforts.
I felt the wheels underneath the conveyor belt stuttering and slipping, not understanding the meaning of my resistance. It fought hard as it was programmed to do so.
My two girls were in the back of the van near tears. “Mom, what’s happening!” they yelled. “Not now!” I hollered. Finally, I told them to get out of the van and run into the grass. They did not hesitate in abandoning me, grabbing their beloved Harry Potter books as they ran away.
That was when I heard it. I heard honking horns and yelling voices. I looked over my left shoulder to see an entire line of cars backed up behind me with the same idea I had only 30 minutes earlier. “What are you doing!!??” they screamed. “Hurry up, lady!!” they commanded. Seriously? “My WINDOW won’t roll UP!! For the love of all that is holy, STOP yelling at me!!” I shouted.
They continued to yell and honk. I yelled back, all the while playing tug of war with the belts under my tires. Then I lost it, and yelled at the window, “In the name of JESUS, roll UP!!!” Nope.
Another minute gone, and I actually considered letting up on the brake. I had visions of soapy water shooting in through the window with me crouched down in the driver’s seat. I saw the long, gangly wash bands reaching into my window like the tentacles of a squid trying to slap me around. But, what finally did it was seeing my face blown into deformity by the wind created by the galactic dryer. The one that sounds like a 747 plane taking off. I began to cry.
Finally, an attendant ran out to help me. She pushed on one side of my window and I pulled on the other side. We strained together as the front of my van inched into the entrance of the car wash. My right brake leg trembling back and forth like Elvis Presley. “If I have to go, you’re coming with me, lady!” I thought to myself.
We pulled, cajoled, and begged my defiant window. And then all of a sudden, as innocently as it began, the belts and motors ceased. I had fought and wrestled my way through an entire car wash cycle. And won.
I sat back in the seat with seeming triumph, my right leg traumatized and flopping uncontrollably. My arms were burning from bracing myself against the steering wheel.
While catching my breath, I tried one more time with the electric window. It rolled right up. The gas attendant and I just stared at each other. She kindly gave me another code since there were 8 cars behind me who would not be deterred and of course, there was the issue of my van still needing a wash.
My girls got back into their seats. The helpful attendant punched in the new code, and we went through the car wash cycle.