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Jerry Zezima standing in a garage, polishing a silver sedan.

The Diamond's in the Details

By Jerry Zezima

As a guy who gets pooped at the mere thought of washing bird droppings off a car, I never figured I would wax poetic over my amazing ability to clean and wax my wife’s wheels. But it turns out I am a gem.

That is the expert opinion of a guy who not only owns a car wash, but who knows all about gems because he used to work in a diamond mine.

I met Edgar Barbosa, proprietor of Auto Salon Detail Center, after my wife, Sue, asked me to rid her silver sedan of the foul feculence of a flock of flighty fiends.

We recently had some tree work done, including the removal of a large branch overhanging the driveway. This must have rankled the rockin’ robins that nested on that branch because they came back a few days later and unloaded whatever they had for lunch all over Sue’s car.

It was up to me to remove the raunchy remains. Unfortunately, they couldn’t be taken off with the traditional cleaning combo of paper towels and Windex.

So I drove to the car wash.

“You need a bath!” Edgar exclaimed.

“So does the car,” I replied.

Auto Salon is not the kind of place where vehicles go through a conveyor and are machine-sprayed with soap, buffed with huge rotating brushes and rinsed off before being dried with powerful fans.

“We do everything by hand,” said Edgar.

On this day, those hands belonged to Jose Cruz and Jorge Estrada, who let me lend a helping hand so I could be handed a compliment by Sue when she found out that my cleaning efforts weren’t for the birds.

I began by using a clay bar, a lubricated pad that removes dirt, grime and, yes, bird droppings.

“Go in a circular motion,” Edgar instructed.

“Good job,” said Jose, who has been in the business for almost 30 years.

Jorge, a relative newcomer with seven years’ experience, was impressed by my ability to hose off the lubricant without soaking myself to the skin.

All three men were relieved when I didn’t lose a finger while using an electric buffer to clean the floor pads of Sue’s car.

“That machine can break your hand,” Edgar warned.

“If it does,” I told him, “you can call me Lefty.”

I got high grades for using a shammy to polish Sue’s trunk.

“I’m really taking a shine to this,” I said.

Edgar, who was very impressed with my handiwork, has a car that has seen better days.

“It’s a 2004 Prius with 295,000 miles on it,” said Edgar, who bought it three years ago for $2,000. “It keeps going,” he added. “And my guys clean it. I don’t have a girlfriend right now. The only reason to have a beautiful car is to impress the ladies.”

Edgar, who is 61, with three children and two grandchildren, has had many jobs over the years. His most memorable one was in Brazil.

“I was in the jungle working in a diamond mine,” he remembered. “One of the guys brought up a diamond that was 326 karats. He said I could buy it for $775,000. I called friends in the U.S. and asked them to send me the money. The next day, somebody else bought the diamond. Then he sold it for $25 million.”

“Do you have any more diamonds?” I wondered. “My wife would be interested.”

“No,” Edgar said. “But you did such a good job on her car that you could work here.”

“Will you pay me enough to afford a diamond?” I asked.

“You won’t become a millionaire in this business,” Edgar said. “But if you save enough money, you can buy your wife a new car.”

—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 seven books, Leave It to Boomer, The Empty Nest Chronicles, Grandfather Knows BestNini and Poppie’s Excellent AdventuresEvery Day Is Saturday, One for the Ageless and his latest, The Good Humor Man: Tales of Life, Laughter and, for Dessert, Ice Cream, all of which are “crimes against literature.” He has won eight awards from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists for his humorous writing.

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