The Incident

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 sunroof were tightly closed. 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 ticks and hives. It is still very stressful for me to submit to a car wash. This stems from the traumatic experience we refer to as “The Incident.”

Two springs ago, the pollen was out of control. There was a thick layer of yellow film on everything outside. It got so bad that when I got in and out of my van, I could taste it and feel it gumming up my contacts. I’d had enough, so I went to the car wash near to my house.

When I pulled up to the gas station by my house, I became confused. I’d never seen a car wash like this one 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. Between the rails were wheels and a conveyor belt. For someone who is spatially challenged, this did not bode well.

I watched others handle this with ease, and so I gained confidence. Plus there were detailed instructions that any elementary student could follow.

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.

Recently my mini van was in a fickle phase of deciding if the driver’s side window would roll up or not. For the past 3 months, it had been kind and willing, which lulled me into a complacent stupor. Into an arrogant bliss.  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 cartwheel the entire gym class stopped to gawk and then laugh. But, oh if they could see me now. Doing a split in all my middle aged glory.

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, and I so did I.

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 Harry Potter books as they ran away.

That was when I heard it.

I heard honking of horns and the yelling voices. I looked over my left shoulder and saw 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!!!”


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. 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,  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.

6 thoughts on “The Incident

  1. Oh, my! That was definitely an INCIDENT. This helps me understand Sydney’s deep-seated fear of car washes. She’s never liked them.

  2. Carrie, You have developed into such a capable, lively writer. Your word pictures come alive to your reader s. What a joy to read your everyday responses!! Love you, girl,
    Jane Schrum

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