One busy morning I stopped between errands to get my car washed. I told the young man at check-in that I wanted a hand wash and hand wax but needed to be out of there by 10:30 latest. I had to be at the dentist by 11:00. I was pushing it—it was 9:45, but he assured me my car would be ready so I paid and went to the waiting room.
At 10:30 I looked out into the pickup area. My car wasn’t there. I walked back to the kiosk and asked the young man about it, who called the manager on a walkie-talkie. “Where’s the white car with the hand wash and wax? We told her 10:30,” he said. A raspy, insolent voice asked, “You mean that old lady?” I was stunned. The young man, embarrassed, knew I’d heard. I’m 70, but I consider myself to be holding up pretty well. I had never been called old lady, and certainly never so derisively. I felt deflated. Ancient. I was swept up in the insanity of vanity . They brought out my car and I left, but my day was ruined. For the next few days, old lady kept ringing in my head.
I never went back there. When my car became unacceptably dirty, I googled and found a hand car wash that was much closer to my house. Happily, it turned out to have much more to recommend it. When I paid at the kiosk and went into the waiting room, I found myself entering a place of beauty and peace. Silence reigned; it was a true hand-wash operation, with absolutely no automated equipment. A cool gurgling stream curved across the stone floor. In it, lovely orange carp silently glided. Lining the stream were small red tables, the kind found in nightclubs, where customers sat in the stillness, broken only by the whispering of the stream and soft talking on cell phones. Two turtles rested together in lush foliage on the stream bank. Several well cared for cockatiels chattered in the other room. The gourmet coffee was delicious.
My car is much cleaner now because the car wash is such a pleasant place that I go every chance I get. That insolent, bad-mannered manager is a faded memory. In fact I now think of him as my angel in disguise. He guided me to Car Wash Paradise, and I silently express gratitude. Thanks, you old geezer.