I never wash my car. Never. I know, as a responsible car owner, you're supposed to, but I never do. And here's why...
Because I take the train to work, my car is parked in front of my house all day, five days a week. (Sometimes more, if I don't drive anywhere on weekends.) Day after day, my car rests comfortably by the curb — silent, undisturbed — obediently waiting for my Saturday trip to pick up my dry cleaning and perhaps a stop at the supermarket.
A couple of weeks ago, as I descended my front porch steps on my way to the train station, I noticed a number of long, dark strips of something all over the passenger's side of my car. As I moved closer, I saw that the sidewalk was dotted with a similar discoloration. I looked around. Any overhanging tree branches were too far back to drip any sap (or whatever trees drip) on my car. The spots were too numerous, too spread out and not the right color to be bird droppings. I lightly touched and rubbed my finger on one of the many dried streaks that, upon closer inspection, ran the full length of my car. I didn't know what it was... but, if I stood there any longer, I would miss my train. I decided to continue my investigation when I got home from work. When I got home from work, I completely forgot about the stuff all over my car.
Of course, I saw it again the next morning. "Dammit!," I thought, "I better do something about that." In typical fashion, I let it go a few more days. Then, I remembered and I started checking Google for a self-serve car wash near my house. I figured that, when the weekend rolled around, I'd go to one of those places that offer the general public access to a high-powered hose, thus saving me some money. Then, I realized I'd have to buy a sponge and some sort of car-washing detergent, prompting a subsequent visit to an auto supply store. Then I'd have to find some rags. Shit! This was turning into a project. And I hate projects that don't result in some sort of Disneyland vacation at the end.
I changed my Google search to regular car washes and found one that I pass regularly when I go to my local Target store. I figured that paying someone to get that shit off my car was better that wasting my time (read: I'm lazy.) doing it myself.
So, this morning, I drove down to the nearby car wash and swung my car into the driveway, past an active crew of guys drying off a shiny car that had just emerged from the equipment-filled building. I pulled around to the entrance and slowly drove up to the massive car wash "menu." The prices ranged from "The Basic" for $13 all the way up to thirty-five bucks for something called "The Ultimate," that boasted an enhanced list of services, most of which I could not readily identify. A guy sporting a backwards baseball cap approached my car and I told him I'd be going for "The Basic." He typed something into a small terminal, presented me with a voucher and directed me "inside" to pay. Catching a glimpse of two more guys, with backwards baseball caps, prepping my car for entry into the soap-and-automated-brush tunnel. I walked down the narrow hall alongside the actual car wash. The wall to my right was outfitted with huge viewing windows, allowing car owners to keep tabs on their vehicles during every step of the cleaning process — sort of like the windows in a hospital nursery. At the end of the hall, a guy took my voucher and swiped my credit card. I signed the receipt and stepped outside to wait for my freshly-cleaned car.
A blue Honda was parked outside, dripping wet. A few guys, all with backwards baseball caps perched on their heads, wiped off the excess water. The car's owner got up off the waiting bench, folded up her newspaper, and headed over to her car. A minute later, my car emerged. A swarm of workers, backwards baseball caps firmly fitted on their heads, attacked my Toyota with the fervor of a pack of hyenas pouncing on a helpless zebra. My car was briefly obscured by a blur of hands and chamois. During the advertised "hand towel drying" process, I noticed one of the workers hesitantly touching an oily streak on the back window of my car. He then gingerly scratched the smear with his fingernail. Then he quickly buffed the spot with his towel and moved on to the plastic cover on my spare tire.
A worker cocked his thumb at me, indicating that the car washing process was now completed. I hopped into the driver's seat, readjusted it to my liking and sped off to my next stop — the supermarket. When I arrived, I got out and grabbed a shopping cart from a nearby corral and saw the passenger side of my car was still covered with those grimy streaks, now even more noticeable with the untouched car finish gleaming around them.
After my grocery shopping, I angrily drove home. I raided my basement closet for paper towels and any spray bottle marked "extra-strength" or "grease-cutting formula." I also grabbed a razor blade scraper and couple of cloths that our twice-a-month cleaning lady uses to dust (or whatever she does with them).
I went outside to my car. I scraped and sprayed and wiped and polished until every last bit of that crap was off my car. The car wash had removed none of it. The only reason I went to the car wash was to have those streaks removed... and I had to remove them myself.
And I did it without a backwards baseball cap.