Sunday, December 11, 2005


I have a confession to make. I am a bit of nut. However, it is the things that make me nutty that is a bit strange - like car washes. The car wash freaks me out with all of that spraying water and those scrubbers coming at you. Because of that I tend to avoid the car wash, but unfortunately Friday it was unavoidable. Friday I made only my second trip to the car wash (as a driver) in my entire life. I am not kidding. This is true. Usually I just wait for rain to wash the car.

I have a great car - Smarty. I love to tell my friends back home that I drive a Mercedes, even if it is the smallest Mercedes in existence. My "Smart" car is so small it only seats two people and can only carry a few groceries. But it gets me from A to B in one piece and it is one of the few automatics available on the German market. (Confession number 2: I cannot drive stick. The German told me that driving an automatic is too difficult, but for the life of me I cannot follow his reasoning.) Someone once told me that my Smart looks like an elephant's roller-skate. Smarts are just entering the U.S. market, take a look at

Smarty needed to go into the shop to have her alignment adjusted (which I suppose we all need every once in a while!), but she was filthy. The German shamed me into vacuuming her and taking her to the car wash. The vacuum was no problem, but I was daunted by the prospect of the car wash. On the other hand, the shame of taking in my filthy car was bigger. So off I went.

I speak very good German, and I even studied it in college (Hi Prof. Sweet!), but my German is a bit like a bad knee, it tends to go out at the most inopportune times. I drove up to the car wash and the young man came out. I read my options and decided on the 10 Euro version, because Smarty deserves only the best. Then I began to get nervous and confused. "Do I need to get out of the car?" I asked. "Nein . . . theoijan . . . thaexth." I am not sure what the guy said other than no. I think the young German new this and just smiled and waved me on. I inched forward and noticed a big sign - "Achtung! Caution!" Shit! I tried to quickly read what I was supposed to do. The sign said something about turning off my engine and taking the car out of gear. But it was too late to get a second look at the sign. The car was loaded onto the automatic treadmill thing and there was no turning back.

Now panic started to set in. My car is an automatic. What does taking it out of gear mean?? Why do I have to turn off the car?? Will it blow up because of the water and soap? It did not dawn on me until later how absolutely stupid that thought was. I mean, my car does not blow up when I drive in the rain, why would it blow up in the car wash. (I told you that I am a nut. I really do not understand cars. I went to get an airfilter once, because I was told I should, and the nice young man at the autoparts store asked me what size engine my car has. Baffled, I looked at him and said, "Medium." To this day, I have no idea how I am supposed to answer that question). Back at the car wash I decided it is better to be safe than sorry - so I turned off the car. The car wash was sufficiently freaky. I was terrified of the dryers which hang from the ceiling and lower to match the height of the car. I thought they were going to slam into my tiny car.

The car wash spit me out of the other end, and there was another car hot on my tail. It seems that the car wash I choose is the assembly line of car washes. There is only one bad thing about Smarty. She is a bit sensitive and sometimes she does not like to start when you want her to. There I was at the end of the line desperately trying to start my car (I had forgotten to put her back into gear) and terrified that car behind me was going to crash into my rear. Finally she springed to life and off I went. I was so unnerved by the whole experience that I went to McDonald's.

There is a short postscript to this incident. I proudly delivered Smarty, all shiny and clean, to the mechanic. When I came back in an hour, nothing had been fixed. "That car is too small, miss. We could not fit it on the lift to put her up and take a look underneath. There is nothing we can do." I was a little upset, after all I had gone through the trouble of the car wash. I think the mechanic saw my disappointment. As I turned and walked away, and I heard him comment, "Who needs such a small car anyway?" I pivoted around and gave him my best "what the hell look" and said, "She is not that small!" Say what you want about my German, but I take insults about Smarty personally.

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