Sunday, September 10, 2006

Totally Traumatized by the Drive-Through Carwash

The windshield of my car has been getting increasing opaque these last weeks, so after filling my tank at the gas station yesterday morning, I sprang for the extra $2 to cover a carwash. Little did I know how much drama would ensue.

I pulled around to the new drive-through carwash in the back. I'm always a little nervous of these things. Think about it: You're in a vehicle controlled by unseen forces and unable to see anything because rubbery tentacles are swishing soap on the windows. As it turned out, that part turned was easy. First, I had to figure out how to drive into the contraption.

I read the signs carefully.
Caution: Do Not Step on Wash Conveyor In Ground (OK, I'm in the car so I should be safe.)
1) Lower Antenna, Turn Radio Off (No problem.)
2) Fold In Mirrors (Not an issue for my car.)
3) When Light Turns Green, Drive Front Tire Between Guide Rails. Stop at Coin Box.
(Sounds easy!)

Driving onto that track leading into the gaping maw of blackness? Yeah, it looks easy from the photo angle, but when you're actually in the car, you're relying on the nearby convex distortion mirror to see your tire and the rail. It turns out that I drove in correctly, but chickened out and backed up because I felt the car turning. I thought I'd hit the rail, but actually it was just the conveyor doing a rough adjustment to line up the car.

I had backed up and pulled forward a few times unsuccessfully (I thought) when a car pulled up behind me. The driver was probably thinking, "Great, there's a moron driving in front of me." He honked his horn and yelled up from his car, "You're fine. You're lined up fine!"

Gratefully, I waved back, ignored the bumpy ride to get to the coin box, and entered the little code on my gas receipt. The automated voice said to go ahead.

Shoot. Was I supposed to be in Drive or Park? None of the signs said what gear to use! If I stepped on the brake, would I stress the transmission by not allowing it to be pushed along by the machinery? If I didn't step on the brake, would I run into machinery further along the track? There was nothing to do but go with my gut, which said to leave it in Drive.

A slew of swishy flaps descended upon the car, spreading soap, followed by water jets, and then hot air. I froze as the last blower came straight at me, bumped gently into my windshield, and thankfully passed over the car, leaving us undamaged and much cleaner. I stepped on the gas and shakily made my way home.

I'm bringing a coach next time.


lara said...

LOL! i'm sure it was a horrific experience, but from the safety of my own home, that was hilarious. i think after one false try, i would have just driven home with the dirty car. :-P

Mayberry said...

I hate those things. And twice I've gingerly driven inside, then sat there for several minutes while.... nothing happened. Took my $5 and did not wash my car! grrrr

Occidental Girl said...

Those things are strange and terrifying! I hate the guide thingy. Why isn't the whole damn thing a conveyor belt so you can drive up to it without stealth maneuvering? Ahh, technology. It makes our lives SO MUCH BETTER! Ha.

P.S. I love the internet. That bit of technology is better.

Lady M said...

Thank you for your sympathy. It's good to know one is not alone.

Incidentally, the carwash did a pretty good job. :)

Mamacita Tina said...

So you lost your automatic carwash virginity...scary stuff the first time around. Next time you'll be a pro.

Kristen said...

Argh, I hate drive through car-washes, too! I have crappy depth perception and can never tell if I'm lined up. And I'm just like you, questioning all the details - what gear, how long do I sit here, etc. Too much stress for a car wash!!