Friday, March 26, 2010

Car wash won't wash

"You might not ever get rich..." Replace the "might" for a "will" and you've got a pretty accurate statement of one particular columnist's financial outlook, even after Chancellor Darling's generous/swingeing/prudent/ election-winning fiscal fit-up yesterday afternoon.

Sorry, can't be more precise about the Budget due to lack of crystal ball ahead of impossibly tight deadline. But seeing it came from a man with the same name as a character in Blackadder Goes Forth, it was probably a Very Cunning Plan.

Anyway, that isn't the point. The point is that if you were ever of a stacked-heel, spangly-top-wearing persuasion then you'll recognise the quotation as the first line of Rose Royce's 1976 disco smash Car Wash.

No, not the 2004 remake by Christine Aguilera and Missy Elliott. That was pants, as was Shark Tale, the film it came from.

And that isn't the point, either. The point is: what's the point of a car wash?

Your trusty motor is grubby. It's caked with winter mud, rimed with salt from the gritters, and it's in need of a bit of spit and polish.

Ah, the gritters. Sounds like some nasty affliction that carries off the heroine of a 19th-century novel.

"Oh do come quickly, Doctor Trueblood! Mistress Stella is stricken with the gritters and I fear she will not see the dawn!"

And no, that isn't the point, either. The point is that given the state of your car, you have a choice. You can spend an afternoon in a howling gale with bucket and sponge and chamois leather, with tepid soapy water running up your sleeves.

Or you can head to the car wash.

By some bizarre coincidence, every driver within a 15-mile radius seems to have had exactly the same idea. A crafty count of the queue, times the length of a wash, suggests you're in for a 20-minute wait. No matter, it beats doing it yourself.

So, quick in-and-out job, or the works, with hub scrub, underbody hot wax and turbo dry? It's got to be the five-star treatment to stand a chance of shifting the incrustations from the bottom of the Dixonmobile.

As you wait, every driver in front appears to have bought an even deeper cleansing programme than your Gold MegaWash®. Rather than taking the projected two minutes, each cycle seems to take at least ten. Are they in on some secret?

Your turn at last. Stretch out of the window, can't quite reach, hop out, key in the number, hop in, hop out again to unscrew the aerial, hop in again while the machine makes impatient whirring noises. Drive in. And relax, as brushes whirl and soap squirts. Close the window. Fast.

You ponder a mystery. Why does everyone else's wash take twice as long as yours? Why do their cars come out three times cleaner? And where did you put that aerial?

"Better than digging a ditch," sang Rose Royce about her '70s disco car wash. Only just, Rose. Only just.

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