Read More →
I may be the only person in the world who nearly drowned in a carwash. This happened a few days after we had moved from Southern California to Houston. It soon became apparent that Texans did things a lot differently than we were accustomed to – their automatic carwashes were no exception. I was already adjusting to chicken fried steak and fried catfish, to men who wore heavy neck chains with gold nuggets, pickup trucks with shotguns, and semis driving 90 mph in the fast lane. Now I was dealing with the aftereffects of five days and nights of a downpour, which had opened up potholes in the roads and fired up drivers’ tempers. Gutters had overflowed, turning the streets into gushing rivers, and men in business suits were wearing cowboy boots to avoid the discomfort of sitting at their desks all day with wet socks and pant legs. When the rain finally stopped, my new little Toyota was a dull, muddy brown instead of shiny green. It clearly needed a bath. So I drove around looking for a carwash. Bad timing. It was rush hour and cars were stuck together in all directions. Finally, though, I found what I was looking for. But it was behind a gas station where cars were lined up to the street waiting to fill up their tanks. The drivers kindly let me wiggle through to get to the back of the station, where I found the carwash building with a sign explaining the proper procedure. “Drive your own car slowly through the soap and rinse cycle. Exit and pay attendant at front of station.” OK, I can do that. Point the tires straight, drive slowly into the carwash, pray that my tires stay inside the 3-inch railing on both sides of the car. Now I’m in an igloo composed of soapsuds and giant scrubbing brushes. So far so good. I was even humming a catchy little tune, something about “getting tears in my eyes from lying on my back crying over you” that I’d heard on my car radio. I was looking forward to the rinse cycle. Soap, more soap, brushes whirling wildly away. Minutes passed. Now I began to worry. Shouldn’t I be in the rinse cycle by now? Pushing on the gas pedal did nothing. Could I have turned the car slightly and driven up onto that railing? I couldn’t get out of the car for help because I would have had all the skin scraped off my body from the giant brushes. The headlights! I could flash them on and off and someone would come to help me – well, that didn’t work. Everyone was around front pumping gas. I began to breathe heavily. How long would the oxygen inside the car hold out? Chappaquiddick flashed through my mind. OK, try the horn! Really blow it! A lot! Aha! The brushes stopped, and as the soapsuds were making their final descent down my windshield, I could see parts of a very angry bearded man in a cowboy hat, standing at the end of the building pulling down a lever which stopped the machinery. He shook his fist at me. “Dammit!” he said. “You stalled your engine, you dumb broad! Ain’t you got the sense to start it up again?” Oh, I see. I wasn’t hung up on the railing, after all, soapy tires spinning aimlessly. I turned the key in the ignition, stepped on the gas pedal, and my staunch little car moved bravely ahead past the angry man who grabbed my money without another word. I made it through the heavy traffic to the safety of my own cozy garage. I hurried into my house and poured myself a glass of wine and drank it in one gulp. Then I poured another and phoned my daughter in California, who had been concerned that this move might be difficult for me. “Hi, honey,” I said. “I’m doing just fine. I’m relaxing with a nice glass of wine after a busy day. I just learned how to use their carwash system here, and tomorrow night we’re going to Gilley’s and dance the Cotton-Eyed Joe. It’s about stepping into cow patties and shaking them off your shoes. Can you imagine this is part of a dance? It’s really fun out here in Houston!” Jean Stephenson is a longtime Palos Verdes Estates resident and an artist. Do you have a story to tell? Submit your column to Lisa Martini, My Turn, Daily Breeze, 5215 Torrance Blvd., Torrance, CA 90503-4077, or e-mail us at [email protected] Please limit to 800 words and include your telephone number. We’ll pay $25 for each column we publish.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!