I don’t remember praying for patience recently. I’ve learned that that only causes trouble. So when this week turned into day after day of little patience exercises I began to scratch my head. My practices in patience ranged from driving 30 minutes to get something only to find out when I got there the store no longer had that item to being repeatedly awakened pre-dawn by a monster who is inhabiting the body of my preschooler to circling a crowded block for over an hour with said monster protesting the entire time. None of them were life threatening or a big deal. Just annoying. So I’m not angry or bitter, I’m just a bit frayed.
The one that sticks out in my mind and still has me wondering if there was a hidden camera somewhere was the car wash. I got a coupon in the mail for a free car wash at a local gas station. The family car was encrusted with salt and it was one of the first relatively warm (40 degrees) and sunny days of the season. It sure seemed like a perfect excuse to “get out” and “do something”. I picked Kiddo up from preschool at told him we were headed to the car wash. Glee. Kiddo loves the car wash, and so do I. What’s not to love? All that colorful foam and the mechanical do-dads. For crying out loud it’s a giant robot that growls and spews and blasts and blows! Good times. We were both feeling pretty stoked and I decided that we’d make a date of it and grab a sandwich from inside the gas station and have a picnic of sorts in the car while we were in line. I had some idea that it could take a while on a day like that, but can someone say three hour tour? Okay closer to an hour and a half, but you smell what I’m cookin’.
First of all, the closest “branch” of this gas station is in an urban area so the layout of the deal is such that the queue snakes and winds around a building or two before you enter the actual wash hut. You do what you can when land is scarce, and I get that. But it makes going for a car wash a serious commitment. Once you are in the line, you are stuck. There is no abandoning ship. There’s even a little sign in one spot that warns you that if there is a line, it is 40 min wait from that point to get in the wash. Whatever. We could hack it. This intrepid duo had food and drink and it was sunny. We got in line.
I divvied up our sub and chips and drinks, turned on some tunes, cracked the windows a bit and then –heck, live large! - rolled them all the way down. We munched. Then ew. Somehow there was I kid you not about a tablespoon on salt in this sandwich. I take a deep breath. We’re in line now, not much we can do about the salt. We can scrape that side of the bread and make it work. Ok. We’re good to go. Munch munch chat. My thoughts wander. Oh c’mon lady, the line is snaking back out into traffic behind us, keep moving. Sigh. Are you serious - you have your dog on your lap AND you’re on the phone? Ma’am, please. Just move with the line. I’m glad it’s a sunny day. We’ve been so cooped up. Even if we are in the car, it’s good for Kiddo and I to get some relatively fresh oh please no no no lady please don’t light that thing. I mean a) we’re at gas station and I’m not rocket scientist, but… and b) this is the first day in months I can roll the windows down for crying out loud so please please don’t - aw crap. Ok I get it you’re addicted and I feel for you so I’m cutting you some slack and rolling up my windows while you grab a cig. Another sigh and zzzuuuuuuurrrrrrrrrrrrrd times four. Ok you’ve had your smoke. Alrighty I see you need two. Three? Lady. It’s only 11:30 am and you’re setting a two pack a day pace here and that can’t be good for you or for that poor miniature dog and it’s miniature lungs (and the dog is wearing clothes, but don’t get me started on that).
We advance around the labyrinth, windows closed, doing our best to keep chipper. Kiddo is doing a remarkable job being pleasant. His mother is really having to work at it. At last we are at the point where Smoky the Chatterbox plus Dog are pulling up to the code machine kiosk. Ok lady, this is where you enter your code and proceed into the wash. Ma’am? That means now. Honks from behind us, but I’m trying to be nice so I hold off on the horn. Nothing. Maybe if she hangs up the phone? A slight little man in the bright blue car wash uniform appears and unceremoniously enters her code for her and disappears again. She creeps forward. She is about half way through the under-carriage blaster and throws it into reverse. No no no no no (*HONK* - I mean c’mon she’s about to hit me and even Polly Patient can’t abide that). Once she gets it into a forward gear and is proceeding into the wash I rest easy and the machine tells me I can enter MY code. Beep beep… beep…beep beep. Ahhh… the end is in sight. As if. She puts it in reverse again. It takes 3 tries for her to get into that little ramp-with-a-ditch thing that tells the machine to start the cycle. Once she’s in, the wash starts up and makes its rounds to soap from all angles. And then she guns it and drives off. Soapy. Mid-cycle.
Automatic car washes are remarkable things. Very clever inventions, indeed. This one, however, my dear friends, was not clever enough to know what to do with someone driving off mid-cycle. It freaked out and stopped. Leaving prematurely apparently tripped some kind of something or another (I’m not up on car wash terminology) and the machine and I both just sat there, our optical sensors trying to figure out what in the kingdom of green just happened - me staring at the soapy trail leading out onto the street with my jaw hanging open.
In retrospect, I feel pretty bad for her. She waited all that time and went through all of that to get covered in soap and drive off. Maybe she was late to something, I don’t know. I do know that at that point I was stuck between a string of irate people and an impassable jammed machine.
I pressed the “call attendant” button. And then pressed it again. And again. And about five more times before I’m on the verge of tears. Clearly I couldn’t leave my now antsy child in the car to go inside and find the little Blue Man. Ok. I can do this. I go to the man in the car behind me and explain the sitch. He, stuck between the same rock and the same hard place, agrees to go for help. Poor guy was in a suit and tie and probably thought he’d just dart in on his lunch hour and grab a quick wash. One woman from further back in the line comes up and asks if I need help entering my code. “No. Thank you very much, Ma’am. I do appreciate it, but that’s not the issue. It’s that the soapy lady…”
Less than five minutes later the man in the tie emerges with THE SANDWICH GUY. They can’t find Man in Blue anywhere. Now three more people are out of their cars asking Sandwich Guy what they’re supposed to do. Sandwich Guy is super nice (in any other circumstance I’d have chatted him up asked him what the deal was with all the salt) but he’s no car wash technician. Guy in a Tie suggests perhaps there is a reset button of sorts somewhere in the wash that would start the cycle over. Sandwich guy sees merit to the theory but has no idea where that might be. Guy in a Tie is a hare’s breath from looking for the button himself when Man in Blue saunters around the corner and asks me if I need help entering my code. For the love.
Between the three of them, the Man in Blue (who, when asked about a reset button replies “uhhhhh, I dunno”), Sandwich Guy, and Guy in a Tie manage to find some kind of “fix” and the confused contraption lurches to attention and returns to ready. Beep beep…beep…beep beep. INVALID CODE. But of course.
To finally put this tale out of it’s misery, I’ll say that my experience at the car wash concluded with my forehead on the steering wheel as the one still-functioning half of the car wash cleaned one half of my dirty car.
Don’t worry, readers. This really is the end. This story is longer than I had expected, but I found recounting the experience to be somewhat therapeutic (misery loves company?) and didn’t have the a*hem to go back and edit it. I do feel bad about the length, and I apologize, as I know your time is valuable. Maybe hanging in there and reading the whole thing has helped you gain some patience (snark)? Plus, now you now have an official whatserbucket “Patience is a Virtue” merit badge.
Oh, and if it’s one of YOU praying that I might become a more patient person? Kindly knock it off.