At the Car Wash


There is an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm in which Larry and Cheryl get stuck in a car wash. Larry tries calling for help unsuccessfully while Cheryl escapes through the car window. “Ha!” I thought, “this is too much of a stretch. Why would people panic like that?” Then I got stuck in a car wash.

In the show, the car abruptly stops while the brushes and the soapy water continue to spray and wash, so Larry pulls out his cell phone and calls the cashier for help. She can’t hear him over the noise of the water and brushes, and hangs up. Larry calls again, and the cashier treats it as a prank phone call and hangs up. Cheryl is late for a lunch date, so she climbs out of the car window and through the spraying water and walks away, soaking wet, leaving Larry stranded between the giant brushes and spraying water with nowhere to go.

So because I am a supporter of television that educates and enlightens, after a few seconds of idling in my car, I knew that I should pull out my cell phone and call for help. Admittedly, I also knew to worry that the car wash would be too loud and the cashier wouldn’t be able to hear me, but it turned out that that wasn’t my problem at all: my problem was that inside a car wash I had no cellular service.

So I decided to text for help.

Except … the only cell numbers I had that I could text for this emergency belonged to my family.

“I’m stuck in a car wash,” I texted.

 I sent photos of the giant brushes at a standstill on my windshield.

This is one of those photos.

 Immediately everybody started asking questions.



“How? Why?”

 “Are you at the car wash by McDonald’s? Did you get any food?”

 “Can you call someone for help?”

 “Hey, remember that episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm … ?”

 I looked for an employee. Surely someone had to be out there and would notice that the car wash had stopped. But I couldn’t see around the brushes. I was in there all alone.

I had also lost my radio signal, so with the static my brain shifted to autopilot and started playing Jim Croce’s “steadily depressin’, low down mind messin’, working at the car wash blues” in my head, and I began to have doubts that I would ever be rescued.  I was sure I would come to a sad and tragic end. I just hoped I wouldn’t die before I wrote a country-western song, my mind rifling through the myriad of possible poetic analogies of brushes and death.

I vowed to start washing my own car.

I started thinking through my schedule. Turns out, I had nowhere to go and nobody was expecting me, so if I never got out of the car wash, nobody would notice I was missing until there was no dinner on the table.

I vowed to make extra dinners and put them in the freezer.

“I’m seriously stuck,” I texted. “I can’t get out of here, and I can’t open a window or door.” I decided to honk the horn a few times and hope that an attendant would rescue me. So I beeped the horn gently and politely because, in general, I am not rude. And waited.

Nothing happened.

I honked again—gently—and waited. Then I heard loud clicking. And louder clicking. And a mournful mechanical groan and wheeze. I was convinced that my car and I were about to be crushed, drowned and lost forever, but instead the brushes started loudly and painfully shifting into gear, the water pressure laboriously returned and my car jerked forward a few inches, then jerked forward again. Then finally I started to move along!

After what seemed like an hour and a half (but was probably only ten seconds), my car inched forward slowly, the pace of the brushes accelerated as they changed to spraying the rinse water, then the hot wax, and I could begin to see the unlit ‘GO’ sign ahead—the light at the end of the tunnel!

“I’M MOVING!” I texted to the family. “I’M GOING TO BE ALRIGHT!”

“OK,” they texted back. “That’s good. Did you want to stop at McDonald’s?”

As I anxiously approached the end, the GO sign turned green and I instantly shifted into Drive, stepped on the gas and bolted out of there, shaken but fortunately still intact. I parked at McDonald’s to de-stress and watched as other cars navigated the carwash without incident. I got myself a treat because I deserved a break that day, relaxed for a while, then went home to cook dinner for everyone.