Monday, September 12, 2005

Talkin' 'Bout the Car Wash, Girl.

So Daughter is back in school and this is a Good Thing.

I admit to a certain tugging melancholy when I packed her lunchbox for the first time in two months; a moment of “Hey, wait!” when she buzzed into class after an affectionate but perfunctory goodbye kiss. But, on the whole, our lives are better when she is in school. Because of the way I chose for us spend our summer, I got to the gym no more than twice in two months. It turns out, when I don’t get to work out, I am a yelling mom. Who knew?

I must begin by admitting something: I hate having my car washed. No, more precisely, I hate waiting to have my car washed. You would think someone who enjoys reading the way I do would grab a magazine, sit in the shade, and bask in the fact I can do nothing but read while someone else scrapes bird poop off my hood. Inevitably, what actually happens is I decide the car is completely squalid when I have exactly forty-five minutes to get somewhere. This means I spend the entire time the detail guys are hand-drying the car hovering around them like some sort of avenging angel hissing, “It’s fine. It’s good enough. I have to go”.

I then leave the car-wash, water droplets spraying off the bumpers like pinwheels, and park close to wherever I was in such a hurry to get to. When I come back an hour later, I discover an entire flock of birds in the adjacent tree has contracted the West Nile intestinal flu. This happens all the time so it’s hard to get excited about a process that is relatively expensive, time-consuming, and has the lifespan of a gnat.

So about ten days ago, on an especially warm day, I decided Daughter and I should wash the car. She could wear her bathing suit and frolic with the hose. I could wear my ratty clothes and apply all my upper body strength to removing a few hundred miles worth of dead bugs from the windshield. We did all of that and more. And by more, of course, I mean that my most exercised muscles became my vocal chords:

“…Sweetheart, don’t use the rags, they’re filthy…okay, you can use those…NOT THOSE! DO NOT CLIMB ON THE HOOD…I know you can’t reach the bird poop to clean it, I’ll clean the bird poop, I SAID I’LL CLEAN THE BIRD POOP AND WHAT DID I SAY ABOUT TOUCHING THE DIRTY RAGS?...Why don’t you start cleaning the back seat? Here’s the Hand-Vac…PLEASE STOP VACUUMING YOUR LEG…Yes, I imagine it does hurt…Do you want a tissue for your nose? What do you mean, you have one? WHAT DID I SAY ABOUT USING THE DIRTY RAGS?...”

You never see scrapbooking pages dedicated to these moments.

Somehow, we ended up with a clean car. I scrubbed the floor mats, cleaned the leather seats, got out Consort’s shop vacuum and sucked up seven pounds of food-like bits from between the seats. All I wanted to do was stand next to the car, look inside and admire its shine.

I certainly didn’t want anyone in there. Human beings remove shine.

The next day, we took a family trip to the Bloodmobile. This is the kind of glamorous adventures we have as a family. We took my car, because Consort and I both planned to donate, and he can drive my car more easily than I can drive his (His car is large; I feel like a Muppet behind the wheel). Why might he have to drive? Because the last time I donated blood, I left feeling as if someone had removed all the blood in my body, plus a lung. Thus I was not capable of operating heavy machinery. So this time we took my shiny-clean car and I warned everyone not to shed a single dead skin cell or loose hair during the entire trip. Consort was denied his coffee. Daughter was denied her second breakfast. I denied myself my lap-tea. We were in marvelous humor, but the car stayed clean.

Turns out, I could have stayed at home and attacked the bathroom grout with a toothbrush. After the preliminary screening, I was told my iron count was too low. This might explain why I felt like a papery husk the last time I donated blood. Consort went in and got drained while Daughter and I stayed outside the Bloodmobile and attempted to make our own fun. Considering that it was hot, boring and took far longer than anticipated, she was a remarkably good sport. So good, in fact, that when Consort came out he rewarded her by handing over a pile of the snacks they give donors to replenish their chemistry, post donation (human blood must be all sugar, salt and hydrogenated oils, because these were the three main ingredients of every bag of snack-food he was given). She merrily ate a small container of Oreos before we even reached the car. As she opened her door, I glanced into her laden arms; there was not a food product in there that, upon the gentlest contact with teeth, didn’t explode into a cloud of neon-colored food dust. I grabbed her hand as it attempted to rip open a bag of cheese crackers.

“We just cleaned this car,” I said levelly, “so do not, DO NOT, eat this food in the car. We are a few minutes from home, where you may pick ONE MORE BAG to have. You won’t die from lack of artificial coloring until then. If you get really hungry, suck the Oreo crumbs off of your shirt.”

We drove.

Consort and I talked about this and that.

There was a pause.

I heard the rustling of a bag.

“Are you opening the bag of cheese crackers?”



I glanced in the rearview mirror. Daughter’s face was set in mute rebellion. The bag was nowhere in evidence; then again, neither was her right hand.


Small mumble from back.


Crackers were handed forward.

“THANK…I mean, thank you.”

The freeway traffic was unlovely, and getting home took a few minutes longer than anticipated. Consort remembered an errand easily be done on the way home. Suffice to say, we were on the road for a while and every ten minutes, regular as Old Faithful, Daughter would attempt to discreetly open a new bag of snacks, and I would go off.


(After a few minutes) “I BETTER NOT BE HEARING A BAG TEARING.”

(After another few minutes, to Consort) “DID YOU LEAVE ANY SNACKS FOR THE OTHER DONORS?”

This morning, when I came out to take Daughter to school, I found a thumb-sized, rainbow hued bird poop on the windshield.

Thank God.

Keeping the car clean was giving me laryngitis.


Blogger torontopearl said...

"You never see scrapbooking pages dedicated to these moments."

Priceless. You're so right.

We have a van (that my unofficial chauffeur husband drives and uses to transport three kids to and from school and extracurricular activities) and a small sedan, which I drive. I deem mine to be cleaner because it only sports magazines, newspapers and supermarket coupons on the seats and floors. The van, aka "the dirt mobile" sports EVERYTHING that my car doesn't...including the kids. That factor alone equals mucho "shmutz" (dirt)! But hubby opts to wear rose-tinted glasses; he always claims that my car is messier inside than his van.

And washing/cleaning the two vehicles from the inside out? That's an entire day's work...and unfortunately, we only manage one or two days a year for it. So until then, he rides in the dirt mobile and I drive in the "relatively clean" sedan, looking through my coupons...for valet car washing services!

9:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is it just me, or does anyone else think of Erma Bombeck when you read Quinn's column? Brilliant stuff!

10:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For washers is hard make clean full van:)

7:56 AM  

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