Tuesday, November 5, 2013

In lieu of candles

Today was Girls' Day. The girls' school was closed for a professional development day, the lovely husband was off working, the sweet boy was deposited in his classroom, and the girls and I were ladies about town. 

My beloved silver station wagon, Midge, turned eight years old at the end of last month. We bought her right after our last meeting with the taxidermist's wife, as part of when we were almost-parents and preparing for E's birth. I'd mentioned that anniversary off-handedly to one of the girls and the two of them got carried away, as they do best, on the topic of How To Celebrate A Car's Birthday. It was decided that we needed to treat our Midge to a car wash, and according to the girls, we had to buy the fancy package, with the wax and the sealant and the I-don't-even-know-what -- and neither do they, as they kept saying we need the tip-top fanciest shiniest of car washing car washes!

But the thing is, if you look at Midge, you recognize her for a beloved, aging workhorse. She's not glamorous. She's a Dodge station wagon -- could such a thing be glamorous? I almost never go through a car wash but there's no way that you could look at her and argue against a car wash.

So it should not surprise you that we found ourselves today going out of our way to get gas at the gas station that has an adjacent car wash. I filled the tank first, paying for the car wash at the pump, and as my receipt printed out with the car wash code, it included a coupon for me to redeem inside. When you buy the $14 tip-top fanciest shiniest of car washing car washes, you get a free microfiber cloth. Midge got a birthday present. The girls found this hilarious. 

With our pretty new baby blue microfiber cloth twirling around Midge's interior like a matador's cape, we drove to the car wash entrance and entered our code. We drove into the tunnel, followed the instructions of the blinky lights until the bright red STOP shone, and I shifted the gear into neutral. We were dosed with a heavy rain and an exfoliant of some sort, another heavy rain and then a thick, tacky soap. It was pretty. The girls raucously sang "Happy Birthday" in the backseat.

And then the car wash stopped. The next step didn't commence. The red STOP light disappeared, but no other light turned on. Nothing happened and we were dripping super-soap.

After waiting more than a full minute, I drove out of the tunnel and toward the little building with the cashier. I needed the soap off of the car. What would you have done?

The cashier guy got the guy-who-stays-in-the-back-office-guy to come out. He looked at poor Midge. He beckoned us around to the front of the tunnel again. He climbed a ladder into the mechanical innards of the tunnel ceiling. He pushed some buttons, ushered us to go again, and disappeared. He never spoke.

The girls thought this was the greatest thing a station wagon could ever experience. A double car wash! They sang "Happy Birthday" again. They choreographed elaborate flag dances with our free microfiber cloth.

The car wash stopped working just after super-soap. Again. We drove around. Again.

The mystery man pushed more buttons and manually maneuvered Midge's third car wash experience from the control panel. He didn't have a raincoat. He didn't stay very dry. The girls sang "Happy Birthday" for a third, spirited time, although by this rendition many of the words were lost amongst the giggles. The microfiber cloth performed artistic feats of drama and grace that will be recorded in the microfiber cloth history books.

And after a triple-scrub tip-top fanciest shiniest of car washing car wash experiences all coordinated by her own personal car washing concierge, senior citizen Midge was looking quite luminous. The girls are now planning how to celebrate the fourth birthday of the lovely husband's minivan Gunther when it occurs in January, but I'm pretty sure that this car birthday was unbeatable.

Happy birthday, Midge. You're loyal, loved, and you looked really, really clean for that one hour before I took you on the Beltway.

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