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It All Comes Out in the Wash

By Jerry Zezima

This may sound like a shameful admission — and it would be if I had any shame — but my body hadn’t been cleaned, my top scrubbed and my rear end buffed in more than a year.

So I went to the car wash.

It was the first time since I got my SUV (sloppy utility vehicle) that I had brought it in for a bath. And there was a lot to bathe away: bird droppings, tree gunk, flower pollen, road salt, street dirt and all kinds of other stuff that made my car a partner in grime.

I drove to Island Car Wash and encountered the automotive equivalent of a Cecil B. DeMille epic. When I finally reached the booth, a friendly attendant named Jason asked which treatment I wanted.

I looked over the sign with all the choices and said, “Give me the works.”

“That would be the Platinum package,” Jason told me. “What scent would you like?”

“How about beer?” I replied.

“We don’t have that one,” said Jason, adding that the fragrances included strawberry and black ice. “They’re my favorites,” he said. “We also have new car scent.”

“My car isn’t new, but this is its first wash, so I’ll take it,” I said, handing Jason my debit card so he could charge me $47.

“Don’t forget to roll up your windows,” he reminded me after giving the card back.

“Thanks,” I said. “I didn’t bring my bathing suit.”

Going through the car wash was like being on an amusement park ride in Niagara Falls.

Slowly I rolled, step by step, inch by inch, until my vehicle came out the other side. I turned left into an empty space, exited the car and watched as a quartet of cleaners armed with rags, spray bottles and vacuum cleaner hoses descended on the dark green auto, making it pristine inside and out.

“They’re doing a great job,” I told supervisor Celso Bocchini.

“My four best people are working on your car,” said Celso, who told me that the Premium package included “vacuuming, car wash, windows in and out, waxing, rims, shiny stuff on the tires and scent.”

“My car was filthy, but it’s looking good now,” I said. “At least the inside wasn’t too bad.”

“You’d be surprised at what we find in some cars,” said Celso. “You don’t know what will be in there. We find a lot of popcorn and french fries. We once found a couple of hot dogs that were almost walking. I don’t know how people can drive around with that kind of stuff in their cars.”

“Can I help clean my car?” I asked.

“You can do anything you want,” Celso answered. “It’s your car.”

He handed me a damp cloth.

“A dry one will scratch your car,” he said. “Now put some elbow grease into it.”

The grease had already been washed off, but my elbow was sore after buffing the hood and the front passenger-side door.

“Did I do a good job?” I wondered.

“Yes,” said Celso. “Make believe you do something and take credit.”

“Is your car nice and clean?” I asked.

“It’s a mess,” Celso confessed. “It gets washed when I have a chance, but it’s less than anybody else here. That should tell you something.”

“It tells me that you’re a busy guy,” I said.

Celso nodded and pointed to his car, a 2001 Hyundai Sonata that was parked across the lot.

“It has only 80,000 miles on it,” he said. “I bought it for $2,000 five years ago. I’ve put only 30,000 miles on it in five years. I drive five miles a day. I don’t need a BMW, but if you want to give me one, I’ll take it.”

“I’ll have to get a job so I can afford it,” I said before getting in my shiny, spanking clean, beautifully scented vehicle.

“You can work here,” Celso said. “Maybe then I can get my car washed.”

— Jerry Zezima

Jerry Zezima writes a humor column for Tribune News Service, which distributes it to newspapers nationwide and abroad. He is also the author of five books, Leave It to Boomer, The Empty Nest Chronicles, Grandfather Knows BestNini and Poppie’s Excellent Adventures and Every Day Is Saturday, all of which are “crimes against literature.” He has won seven awards from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists for his humorous writing.

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