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Sundries
...a sweatshop of moxie

Monday, February 13, 2006

Car Wash

By now, almost everyone knows how much Americans set store by their cars.

In the grand passion of life, few things get Americans so worked up as:

  • Cars

  • Lawns

  • Pets


  • Note how these are all one syllable words, almost as if they are so basic, they could have been grunted by cavemen.

    It's just that automobiles, to use its proper word, are so cool, that it's difficult not to pamper them. After all, they cost the earth, even when they're leased.

    Well, I'm no different.

    For reasons too various to explain here, I myself tool around in one of my parents' two cars, both foreign in make.

    I may be Captainess America in most things, but foreigners make themselves some mighty fly rides.

    And anyway, I've been burnt by Ford (Fix Or Repair Daily) before.

    (Nor did I come all the way to live in the US, just to buy myself a silly Mini)

    So when wanting to make our babies nice and clean, most of us in Miami-Dade County traipse to our favourite car washes.

    There are the carpark mall guys who wash-and-wax your precious ones as you shop 'til you drop.

    There are the roller-brush, $3.99 ones you get when you fill up your tank, but should only be used by hoopdees, as they scratch your paintwork.

    And then there are the fancier ones, which come in several "touchless" varieties. No scratches here, or else, as in sue-you else.

    Like many spendthrift Miamians, I myself favour The Car Wash on US1 and Bird Road.

    Yes, it's actually just called The Car Wash, as if no other existed.

    "Where did you get your car washed?"
    "At The Car Wash."
    "Yeahhh...but which one?"


    Why do I like this one best of all?

    Many reasons, but mostly they have to do with convenience, customer service, and a slight feeling of snobbishness, as you hob-nob with the celebs who stop by to have their Hummers seen to.

    I stopped counting how many times I saw NBA star, Alonzo Mourning, there. We are even on waving terms.

    I don't care what bitter Raptor fans think; he's a nice guy.

    (He has a cute powder-blue, little BMW two-seater, which can hardly hold his legs, let alone anyone else)

    And his coach, Pat Riley, likes to drop his creme-coloured, vintage Jaguar convertible at times, but ole Pat is a little less forthcoming with waves and such. In fact, he's a little snooty, but if he brings us the NBA title, who cares.

    Also seen at this Car Wash are Rosie O'Donnell, Matthew Modine, Kyle McLachlan, Sandra Bernhardt, and even Charitin -- the Dominican Republic's answer to Kathie Lee Gifford.

    Last time I went, I saw Jackie Nespral, the local NBC anchor. She patted my dog, who bared his fangs at her. We watch ABC.

    As you know, I love nothing better than to show you the local haunts and lurks around South Florida, so come follow me on my latest travellogue:


    THE CAR WASH ON US 1





    You enter the premises after having chosen your car wash type (I always choose the $20 "The Works", but you can go as low as a ten spot which barely gets you hoovering, so what's the point).

    Then you walk through the long corridor, which have the powder rooms to your left, and the peep-show windows to your right.

    Above, is my mother and I. Kidding!

    Although you can see why Florida is ranked up there, in the fattest US states in America, category.

    Because people don't work off the cheeseburgers and croquetas de jamon by washing their cars themselves.





    This concept of watching your beloved car being washed is pretty nifty, I have always thought.

    It reminds me of expectant fathers, in the maternity ward, anxiously checking out their newborns for any sign of waxy build-up.





    When you are finished verifying that all is okay with your $50,000 nest egg, you head to the morgue-clean wait room, to pay at the cashier...

    ...or avail yourself of their free, I said free, bagels and creme cheese. It's a wonder I ever leave the joint.





    Since their prices, when they started this place a decade ago, were considered rather steep ($20 was no laughing matter in 1996), they made up the difference by offering concessions, such as soda pop, at unbelievably cheap prices.

    Only place in all of Miami you could get a Coke for a quarter, although they did raise it to 50 cents a while back.

    At the back is their old TCBY Yoghurt counter (free), framed above by their wonderful plasma screens.

    They offer you all the New York Times, and Miami Heralds you want (but why would you want?), so of course, this place is packed at the weekends.

    The owner must by now, be a gajillioner several times over. The rat.





    Once you are finished stuffing your face and paying for your wash, you can either stay inside in the a/c cooled room, or dare to brave the open air, which let's face it, few South Floridians actually ever experience.

    Walking and generally exposing your skin to the elements is for the crazy tourists.

    Take a peep at your car getting washed from afar, and sit down to await its detailing buff.





    Ain't he pretty? Nice and scrubbed, with a million-watt smile in his grill.

    I have no idea whose car this is.





    The Car Wash caters to the muy expensivo cars, and the people who drive them, but it's a very democratic process to actually get it dry.

    So if you're Zo Mourning, or me, you just have to wait your turn, as the detailers work on each car, one-by-one.





    Here are the customers, waiting. And waiting. It takes about 20 minutes for your car to be detailed, but the wait time can approach half-an-hour itself during rush hours.

    Obviously, unless you brought a book, or a friend, you're on your own staring up to the brightly-lit sky.

    This is why no person worth his car wash salt comes to sit outside without their cell phone.

    Not only is a cell phone an useful foil not to sucked into a conversation with a total stranger for half-an-hour (almost like a book on a plane), it allows you to bare the most intimate details of your life, and leave cliffhanger endings when your car is finished.

    Many a time I've overheard some weird convos, only to wonder how the torrid affair with the pool boy, Javier, ended.

    And of course, you can look important, which is the whole point of cell phones.





    The establishment is itself located just at the end of Coconut Grove, a very toney neighbourhood, near Coral Gables.

    But the Car Wash is actually at the side of what we call "The Black Grove", which is the polite term we use for the local ghetto.

    It's not the safest neighbourhood at night, although like all ghettoes in Miami, they don't look that bad, have well-kept houses, and have both working-class people, and the more dangerous variety of thugs, in them.

    The attendants you see, however, are black but almost exclusively Haitian. There are some South Americans too.

    No Cubans, though. Not even the balseros (the newer arrivals from Cuba, who come on "balsas", rafts) work there.

    And this brings us to the odd part of the Car Wash.

    The attendants have three colours of shirts, to signify their position, like Star Trek: white, purple, and baby blue.

    The purpley shirted guys are invariably South Americans, and the colour signifies they can drive the cars from the actual tunnel, to the detailing area.

    The baby blue guys can't drive the cars, but can only dry them.

    And the white shirted guys are the managers, and higher-ups, who can do it all. These latter two are all Haitian-Americans.

    Wonder why. Oh well. Like what happened with the pool-boy, Javier, I'll never know.

    Actually, I haven't seen Zo for a while now. It was only a year ago that my dad solved that mystery, at least.

    As we pulled out of the Car Wash, unto South Dixie Highway (US 1), we both saw a huge sign advertising another Car Wash, just yards away from this one! Capitalism at its best.

    But dad piped up, and then I realised why I hadn't seen my wave-pal Heat star for many rinse-cycles now.

    The sign across the street trumpeted:

    "Tim Hardaway Presents...The FINEST Car Wash"





    Unlike Alonzo defecting to his buddy's establishment, I'll stick to my free bagels and lox at The Car Wash...

    ...the one, the only, the best.

    10 Comments:

    • Dang, Victoria, but your last two posts are wildly entertaining. Nothing to add to either but I thought the least I could do was give you some props. (And, hey, thanks for the shout out in your Cheney-shot-a-man-just-watch-him-die post.) And I'm always willing to do the least I can do.

      If this car wash is in Coconut Grove, you must've stopped by The Cheesecake Factory afterwards for some, well, cheesecake, right? (There, that's all I know about the Grove. That and I understand the Arts Festival is something to behold.)

      By Blogger Pete, at Mon Feb 13, 07:40:00 am GMT-5  

    • I used to work with a chemist who always was baffled as to why people got their cars washed! "It's not like washing yourself, which is justified on grounds of health, so who cares what others think of how dirty your car is?" You could plant crops on his...

      By Blogger Ron, at Mon Feb 13, 09:01:00 am GMT-5  

    • What a great post Victoria! I have never had my car washed there yet, but now I may start just so I can try to figure out who you are! I will keep my eye on the bagels table! Do they sell cortaditos?

      By Blogger Jose Aguirre, at Mon Feb 13, 09:27:00 am GMT-5  

    • For a second there I thought this was a continuation of the 70's Olympics disco theme! Workin at the Car Wash!

      $20 actually isn't that bad. The works at the automated no touch esso will run you $10 or so if you buy 20 litres of gas.

      And don't think Raptors fans haven't put a curse on Alonzo Mourning. He gives back the $7 million or the Heat will never win the title.;) Call it the curse of the single kidney.

      By Blogger Renato, at Mon Feb 13, 09:44:00 am GMT-5  

    • fathers, in the maternity ward, anxiously checking out their newborns for any sign of waxy build-up.

      I love that line. And I love the Miami travelogues.

      Oh, regarding "yoghurt"...get the "h" outta' there.

      By Blogger Ruth Anne Adams, at Mon Feb 13, 10:06:00 am GMT-5  

    • Dang, Victoria, but your last two posts are wildly entertaining. Nothing to add to either but I thought the least I could do was give you some props.

      And I lap up your praise, and thank you for taking the time to write it, Pete. :)

      (And, hey, thanks for the shout out in your Cheney-shot-a-man-just-watch-him-die post.) And I'm always willing to do the least I can do.

      Good catch, that!

      If this car wash is in Coconut Grove, you must've stopped by The Cheesecake Factory afterwards for some, well, cheesecake, right? (There, that's all I know about the Grove. That and I understand the Arts Festival is something to behold.)

      Would you believe this, Pete, but I have never been to that Cheesecake Factory.

      In fact, it was only three weeks back, that I went to my first Cheesecake Factory ever, in WPB.

      The moment I walked in, I realised why I had never wanted to before -- without knowing it for sure, I imagined it would be a huge barn-like restaurant, 10x the din and noise that say, a TG Friday's has, which I loathe (the noise. I actually like their food).

      Then, get this, they make you wait over an hour to get a table, although you get these very cute see-thru' pagers which go off when they have free space for you.

      The prices, however, are outrageous.

      I prefer going to a mom-and-pop local bistro, than eating at one of these chain restos.

      Mind you, I'm dying to go to the Outback for my bloomin' onion.

      P.S.: I've been to the Hooters next door in Cocowalk though. That's where the lead singer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers asked the waitress to get my digits.

      What a coward.

      Anyway, I had (have) no clue who he is.

      Cheers,
      Victoria

      By Blogger vbspurs, at Mon Feb 13, 11:38:00 pm GMT-5  

    • I used to work with a chemist who always was baffled as to why people got their cars washed! "It's not like washing yourself, which is justified on grounds of health, so who cares what others think of how dirty your car is?" You could plant crops on his...

      Ewwwww! And I'm sure his B.O. was not much better.

      I'm very very persnicketty about smells (actually, I was amused to find out many Cubans are too) and dirt.

      I can even take a badly-dressed person, because not everyone can afford to dress fashionably or well, which is fine.

      But that hippie thing about not being embarrassed by your body smells, is for me, close to sociopathic. Freaks.

      And my car is merely an extension of my body. :)

      Poor Ron. I hope you quit that job.

      Cheers,
      Victoria

      By Blogger vbspurs, at Mon Feb 13, 11:41:00 pm GMT-5  

    • What a great post Victoria! I have never had my car washed there yet,

      What! Why not?? It's not THAT far away from where you go jogging (CG City Hall).

      but now I may start just so I can try to figure out who you are!

      I'm the girl making funny faces at the Snapple fridge section.

      Or whatever that Green Tea etc. beverage is.

      I will keep my eye on the bagels table! Do they sell cortaditos?

      WHAT A DREAM if they actually did.

      I literally would be there 24/7.

      You think I have a plasma screen?

      Cheers,
      Victoria

      By Blogger vbspurs, at Mon Feb 13, 11:45:00 pm GMT-5  

    • $20 actually isn't that bad. The works at the automated no touch esso will run you $10 or so if you buy 20 litres of gas.

      20 litres is about 6 or 7 gallons IIRC, so that sounds about right.

      Most petrol stations have the basic car wash, ranging from 3.99 to 6.99. The most they charge is as you say, $10 for their best.

      I've been there infrequently for reasons already mentioned, but I did once take my dog, just to see his reaction as the roller thingies passed over us. He barked and cowered in my lap. Heh.

      And don't think Raptors fans haven't put a curse on Alonzo Mourning. He gives back the $7 million or the Heat will never win the title.;) Call it the curse of the single kidney.

      Cold. Very cold!

      Cheers,
      Victoria

      By Blogger vbspurs, at Mon Feb 13, 11:47:00 pm GMT-5  

    • I love that line.

      Thanks Ruth Anne! My favourite line too. :)

      Funny how you know what people may like, the moment you type it.

      And I love the Miami travelogues.

      I'm really glad to hear that, because I want you to see Miami off-the-beaten tourist track, almost as if you lived here with me.

      Oh, regarding "yoghurt"...get the "h" outta' there.

      Humph! Pushy American!

      Cheers,
      Victoria

      By Blogger vbspurs, at Mon Feb 13, 11:50:00 pm GMT-5  

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