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Sunday, April 5, 2009

The All Important Washing of the Car...

During our last trip to Brandon to visit my family, My son and I went with my dad to wash the Chrysler, something that my father does religiously. And he doesn't skimp. Me, I'll take my vehicle through the big $8.00 wash at the HEB gas station and think I'm breaking the bank by not simply hosing it off in the front driveway with my power washer. My dad, concerned that his car might not be happy otherwise, goes with the $32.00 interior/exterior, lots of TLC business at the local Mister Car Wash.

Due to health issues, my father can no longer drive - at least for now - and so when I took him to the Publix (the Florida version of HEB) to get a few items, I noticed that the car was looking less than sparkling. I told him when I finished trimming a tree in the front patio of their townhouse, I would take the car down for some excellent care.

My mom had found a gift card that one of the grandchildren gave them for the car wash place, so I took it down and when I got to the part where the salesman shows you a menu of the fabulous car wash options, I at first thought of my own cheapskate self and was going to go with the cheapest $15 or $20 option. What that entails is, you drive your car really slowly through the parking lot while three guys pull down their zippers and piss on your wheels while several others point and mock you for being such a cheapskate, and finally, a guy at the end holds his hand out to collect the requisite tip as you exit the premises. I opted to set my sights a little higher.

As the salesman was explaining to me the difference between the $26.00 special and the $32.00 deal, I decided that getting the leather seats rubbed with some sort of cream and the few other things he mentioned like the tire treatment would be worth the extra six bucks, plus, with the gift card my mom found, who knows, it may all be covered. So I went for the gusto but still calculated how many times I could wash my own vehicle for that kinda money.
When I went in, it turned out the card was only good for $20 so I paid the extra $15 to cover the difference. As I was getting ready to walk out to go watch the washing of the car, something my dad takes great pleasure in - admiring his car as it is driven carefully into the automatic washing part of the treatment - a lady walked in and asked if I owned the silver 300. I nodded and she whipped out a twenty that she had found slipped in between the two front seats.

What are the chances of that? No, not having a twenty dollar bill slip out of my dad's pocket, but somebody actually returning it? Call me cynical if you will, but but either the lady who brought in the twenty either figured it was all a set-up to test her integrity, or what I hope to be the case, she was just a genuinely honest woman. I thanked her then walked out on the patio to watch her and the others doing the pre-wash treatment.

When I saw her get out of the front of the car where she had been vacuuming, I tapped her on the shoulder and handed her a five. I always have this debate with myself about who to tip, how much, and do I get better service if I tip one person over the other. Ordinarily, car washes like this will have a huge box at the end where you can leave a tip, then all the workers share the proceeds (after management removes an appropriate amount for taxes, service charge, management convenience fee, etc.), and I like that set-up. You can cough real loud or maybe stomp a foot to get people's attention, then they see you stuff a few bucks into the box, and now, everyone knows that you have made the obligatory tip.
When the car made it through the wash, a team of at least 6 workers descended upon it with towels and glass cleaner and such and in a matter of a minute or two, the car was clean, dry, and serviceable. As the worker moved on to the next car coming out, the lead guy raised the red rag indicating that the car was ready. I walked over and handed him $8 which he quickly put in his pocket and handed me back my receipt. Just standing ten feet from the car, I was looking at the tires and thought they looked pretty dry for supposedly having been given the treatment. I mentioned this to the guy who had just gladly accepted my $8 tip and he asked to see my receipt again. I handed it to him and he says they forgot to put the code on the car and they would fix it up. And sure enough, after a few gesticulations toward the guy with the treatment, he ran over and began to treat the tires. As this was happening, the lead guy began to explain to me the 48 hour bird crap policy whereby if at anytime in the next 48 hours, a bird pooped on the car or some mud got on it, I could bring the car back for an exterior wash.

My mind wandered and I wondered about a 48 hour cream on the leather seats policy. Because as the guy treated the tires, I noticed that the dash and the doors and the leather seats all looked mighty dry. I interrupted the bird poop discussion and asked about the creamy seats. Again, Mr. $8 tip apologized profusely, then motioned for the cream girl to come over and get to creaming the car. I know this might sound a little cheeky, but the lady spoke no English other than the words Cream and Seats. But she was damn good at it.

When all ways said and done, the car really did look good. I've always felt really weird about those people who hover over their vehicle making sure that every speck of dust is removed, every minor spot on the glass is wiped and such. But geeze; as my brother told me later, for $35 and and another $13 in tips, they should have had some guy standing next to me with an umbrella and a fan, much less making sure they cleaned the car.

My dad walked outside to check on his baby and in spite of his health issues that wouldn't allow him to take the 300 for a spin, I could see a sparkle of pride.

That's worth $48.

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San Antonio, TX, United States
I love to observe the odd things happening around me as I go about my day. I especially like it when I can get a picture of people being themselves. Here, I attempt to report the various people and events I have encountered in my neighborhood, and my city. I'd also love to hear from you. Feel free to e-mail your experiences and photos of life in San Antonio.

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