It is stiflingly hot in the August sun, but this is when business is best for us. It seems that no one cares to wash their car in the winter as if somehow it was less dirty because of the temperature. As soon as the sun burns hot it apparently illuminates all the winter grime on everyone’s car. I mostly like to dry and do the final cleaning; windows, chrome, mirrors, interior. It is hard work, but I stay busy and some of the people I work with are fun enough. Mostly I stay to myself I guess. I never really fit in well you know. Too odd I guess. I like people though, I just never seem to say or do the right thing. I make people uncomfortable most of the time. Such is my lot.
I like drying the cars because I get to meet the people who drive them. People are funny. I know because I have a lot of time to encounter them. You can learn a lot about someone by studying their car. I see all types.
There are the pretenders. The ones who drive a car they can’t afford, wear clothes that cost too much, and spend money on women they don’t have. Mostly sports cars, domestic or Asian, SUVs domestic, or pick up trucks, lifted or lowered, never factory. I hate them because they are especially anal about their cars. It is as if the cars are the most important symbol of their social status.
“There is a smudge there…some dirt there…can you wipe the rims again?” They are never satisfied. And when I am finished they will more than likely not tip me. Just some stupid remark that betrays their true lack of intelligence like, “keep it real,” or “be cool man.” Repulsive.
Then there are the truly rich folks; the birds as I call them because they fly above everyone else and only land if they need something from us land dwellers. If it is a man he is probably middle aged. Maybe 40 or 45. A woman? She could be younger because she is probably married to the 40 or 45 year old man. She figured out that an older man has a career, assets and stability that the college aged man lacks. She spends her days getting her nails done, working out, and getting her car washed of course. I like these folks, not because they are pleasant, they may very well be horrible people, but because they do not pretend. They are rich and they act like it. Fine with me.
They might be a little picky, but normally their car was not dirty in the first place because it is almost always under a covered parking spot or safely parked in the garage. They drive the true luxury vehicles. BMWs Mercedes, Cadillac, Audi, rarely anything else. They wash it as though it is required maintenance for a car that cost more than I make in a year. They tip well, but say nothing to me as though I am not there at all and leave. Sometimes they are even on the phone as they take their keys and leave not even bothering to inspect my work. They had me a ten and take off, chatting about something simple men like me couldn’t understand. I don’t mind.
The ones I like the most are the family types; the shepherds as I call them. Minivans, SUVs for the seats not the rims. Their cars are more work than most. Cheerios, crackers, cookies, fingerprints on the windows and most likely some smelly socks. Their cars are the ones in most need of cleaning. I enjoy doing it because I almost feel like they deserve it. It always seems like they are the ones working the hardest. Even at the car wash they are working. Telling a kid to put the popcorn from the ground down, chasing a little one down before he runs into the street, soothing a crying baby, it all seems so exhausting. The rest expect me to clean their cars well, these folks are just happy that someone would clean the car, and thankful that they don’t have to do it.
Most of the time they are the ones with the most to complain about when I hand them the keys for a final approval. No doubt there are still some crumbs under the seat or some melted gummy bears in the cup holder, but it looks so much better that they are almost always pleased. They always tip. Not as much as the birds, but then they don’t have as much I figure. They always find time to thank me as they holler at the children, and if their psyche can manage it, a smile. No cell phones, they don’t have time, no rims, they don’t have money, just a car with which they can transport their children to soccer matches or dance practice, Sunday school or preschool. They work the hardest and are the most humble. I want to be like them.
There are others of course that don’t quite fit into these three categories, and plenty of people who don’t ever bring their cars in for a wash, but then I don’t get to see them often. These are the ones I meet the most. The car wash patrons. These are the ones I study, the ones I know well.