what i’m about to share with you is perhaps the most horrifying thing that’s ever happened to me – and also the funniest. i can barely get through telling this story without laughing hysterically; i’m sure the same thing will happen as i type it out. and let me preface it all by saying that i am a smart girl, i promise. i did well in school, i do well at work, i’m fairly street smart (although you’ll probably disagree with me after reading this) and i’m generally not in la-la land; in fact, as close friends will tell you, i obsess over details to a fault. so with that being said, i give you…the car wash.
it was a spring sunday in 2005 – my senior year of college. i was at my parents’ house for the weekend because i'd dropped off bff b. at the orlando international airport, which is about 25 minutes from mom and dad’s house (it made more sense to stay at home since i had to pick her up, too). i was driving b.’s car and thought i’d take it through one of those automated car washes, since it had been sitting in the driveway under one of my parents’ trees and there was a lot of pollen on the windshield.
so on my way to the airport i stopped at a gas station/car wash, got gas, paid for the wash and drove on in. after the rinse cycle was finished, the dryers came on and then, after a moment, the flashing green light telling me to drive forward did, too. so i drove forward, happy to have done something nice for my friend and looking forward to seeing her after her weekend away.
but the automatic door didn’t budge.
you know what door i’m talking about, right? the one that slides up after you’re through with the car wash? yeah, it didn’t move. but i didn’t think anything of it; in fact, i figured that the dryers probably weren’t completely finished yet and i’d moved forward too quickly (…you know, in spite of the green lights). so i sat there for five more minutes, and then i pulled forward a little more. the door still didn’t move. (keep in mind that the dryers were still on and that there were people in line behind me.)
at this point, i’m wondering what’s going on. so i whip out my cell phone and call my mom, who – understandably – is not too impressed. “you just drive forward,” she told me. “the door will lift when you get close enough.”
but i had driven forward and the door still hadn’t lifted – i didn’t want to get that close to it, especially in my friend’s car. what if it swung backward and shattered the windshield? so i decided to sit there for another five minutes in the hopes that the door would magically open and i’d be free. i can’t even imagine what the people behind me must have been thinking.
nor can i imagine what went through my mother’s head when i called her back again with the same complaint. “i don’t know what to tell you,” she said, probably wondering why she was spending money on my college education when this was the result. “is there someone there that can help you?”
well, that finally struck a chord with me. but how was i going to get someone to help me from inside the car wash? i decided to take matters into my own hands, and i am not proud of what i did next – but for the sake of the story, i’ll tell you.
i got out of the car.
while the dryers were still on.
and then i walked into the gas station, where i asked the teenage attendant if there was something wrong with the car wash.
a few notes: car-wash dryers are strong machines. i had to literally hug the wall of the car wash and inch my way out into the light; it felt like i was in the midst of a hurricane and my hair looked like a bird’s nest by the time i finally got outside. to the gas station worker’s credit, he didn’t look at me and (a) run away or (b) burst into hysterical laughter, like i probably would have. he just gave me an odd look and said, “there’s nothing wrong with it. you have to pull real far forward.”
scraping up the last shards of my dignity, i smiled brightly, squeaked, “ok! thank you,” turned on my heel…and walked back into the car wash. yes, the dryers were still on. yes, there were still people behind me in line. yes, i was completely mortified. and no, even after all that, i still didn’t pull forward far enough for the doors to open.
while telling this story aloud the other day, i mentioned that there’s a good chance i may have gotten out of the car wash again, and although i don’t remember doing that, i may have just repressed the memory. but let’s pretend i’m not that much of an idiot and only stepped into the gale-force dryer winds once instead of twice, ok? thanks.
thank god i didn’t call my mother back again; she probably would have killed me. instead, after sitting there for another couple of minutes (bringing the grand total of time spent in the car wash to almost half an hour), i got frustrated enough to pull farther forward.
and then the door lifted, rays of yellow sunshine streaming through the windshield. i have never been so glad to see the florida sun in all my life.
happily, i got to the airport on time and managed to meet b. in the waiting area. but i decided to wait to tell her the car wash story until we were on the road; telling it right after it happened felt like pouring salt in a fresh, super-embarrassing wound. but as just as we got to the car, b. stopped, cocked her head, and asked, “what happened to the license plate? it’s sort of…bent.” (thank you, car wash.)
to which i rolled my eyes and replied, “oh, do i have a story for you.
so there you have it. the infamous car wash story. read. enjoy. laugh at my expense. just remember: next time you’re in the car wash, make sure you pull far enough forward.