July 2nd, 2007


A Visit to a Brookline Car Wash

Today I did something I had never done before, and I know that this is going to come off rather silly, but what the hey.

I took my car to a car wash.

More specifically, I took the car to the ScrubaDub Car Wash in Brookline.

Perhaps I ought to explain why this feels to be of such paramount importance to me.

As many of you know, I grew up taking subways and walking everywhere. My family had a car, but I never drove it.

Recently, our car has gotten rather dirty. It sits under a tree, and has ended up somewhat covered in pollen and tree gunk. It was so covered that one of the passenger doors was too sticky to open properly.

So as I was getting new wiper blades today, a thought occurred to me -- why not take the car to a car wash?

Well, I knew why not. Years ago, when we first got the car, I read the manual, and it warned against going to certain types of car washes, as the brushes might be too abrasive for the car's finish. But it seemed to me that a good car wash would know all about that issue, and make sure not to wash your car if it was going to end up damaged. (Liability issues, and all that.)

So I did what I was always do in situations like this. I let Nomi do the research. (No, in truth, she volunteered.) I thought I was going to have to drive to Allston or Brighton for a car wash, but she found one right here in Brookline.

So this afternoon, I gratuitously used our new GPS to find the Car Wash (gratuitously because it told me to make one right turn, drive a few blocks, and there it was.) I drove up to the car wash, and explained to the attendant that I had never been to a car wash before and didn't know what I needed. He suggested one of their standard packages, and I paid. And then I had the Car Wash Experience.

First I closed the windows so he could hose down the car.

Then I put the car in Neutral and kept my foot off the brake and my hands off the wheel as a treadmill under the car pulled me forward. As I moved through the car wash, the car got sprayed with water and soap, and these great blue brushes descended from above and scrubbed the car. I felt a little claustrophobic, but I had faith that I would survive and come through at the other end unscathed.

Apparently, while this was going on, the car wash also cleaned my car's tires and undercarriage. But obviously I couldn't see that from my vantage point.

(I feel like the character of Alec Hergensheimer in Robert A. Heinlein's novel Job, where he explains very carefully the workings of a traffic light for his readers.)

Finally, we got to the the best part. At the end, hanging above and to the left, is an Elmo puppet sitting in a plastic car. I bet the kids love that.

I drove off to the side and got out of the car to inspect it. It was much, much cleaner. There was still a little dirt on some places, but I figured it was hard to get out and I wasn't too fussy. I walked over to the attendant to thank him, and then he surprised me quite pleasantly.

He said that he noticed that my car had been very dirty and that there were still remnants of dirt on it. And he offered to let me go through a second time, at no extra cost.

I was flabbergasted. I took him up on his offer, enjoyed the experience much more since I now knew what to expect, and wouldn't you know it, the Car Wash managed to get rid of the rest of the dirt. I was amazed. I made a point of thanking him again, and drove home.

I know that the car will get dirty again, but when it does, I will get it washed.

After all, it helps to be able to see out the windows when I drive.

Fred Saberhagen (1930-2007)

It has been reported that writer Fred Saberhagen passed away last week.

Although he will be most remembered for his Beserker stories, I most remember him for a powerful little story called "Birthdays" that packed a lot in its few words. He chose it for his collection "Saberhagen: My Best," and the story has stayed with me since I read it in the early 1980s. I wish I could point people to a copy of the story somewhere, but the collection is out of print, and the story isn't available on the Internet. And it is one of those stories that I truly feel would suffer if I told you anything about it before you had a chance to read it yourself.

But I did have a chance to meet Saberhagen once, at a Philcon I believe. (I think he was Guest of Honor or Principal Speaker.) I told him how "Birthdays" was one of my favorite stories, and he was very glad to hear it. He thought highly of it as well, but very few people ever came up to him to thank him for it. I'm glad I did.