Sunday, March 11, 2007


I washed my car today.

I went to the brushless car wash near the Whitestone Bridge. You know the kind: they slap soapy carpeting across your finish then rinse it off with well water from some mysterious aquifer that, altho they are within 100 feet of the most polluted body of water within the confines of New York City, somehow manages to clean the soap and crud off your car.

It was 7 this morning. The daughter unit was at swimming practice (which despite her opinion does not hold its practices in said body of water: you'd bounce off if you tried to dive in) and I had some time to kill and the snow was finally gone from the streets and the temperatures promised to be above freezing.

I pulled up and noticed that there was a full crew on: the cashier, the guy who asks you "you want waxing?", along with 12 to fifteen guys who brush and wipe and hose your car for you.

I got the "V.I.P. Wash", $20, because the inside of the car was, well, a little cruddy. They wash the plastic mats and do a really nice job cleaning the carpeting and upholstery, and I have a long drive next weekend.

I paid the cashier and waited for my car. And waited. And waited.

No, the car was fine. They were doing a thorough job of brushing soap into the wheels, and taking the mats out and hosing them down. The car enters the wash, and takes it's usual three minutes to go through the cycle: wash, rinse and spit, I mean, wax, rinse and blow dry.

I've had show cats that got worse treatment.

Twenty five minutes later, I'm driving off. Why so long? Because they were detailing the interior with Armor All and wiping the windows down and cleaning the door trim.

And as I'm watching this, it occurs to me: I'm tipping about ten bucks, because I'm generous. I'm a union guy, see, and I believe hard work is its own reward but anything on top of that is deserved as well. And I'm watching other people drop a buck or two into the box, a few coins.

And I'm calculating: fifteen guys. I've been here about a half hour. They've earned about fifteen dollars in tips (apart from mine). And I realize: there is no way an American would stoop to taking a job like this. It's cold. It's wet. There's ice all over the ground, not to mention wax and other slick chemicals. There's oil from the cars themselves, and exhaust fumes.

And these poor souls, who probably make $3, $4 an hour, are grateful to do this work.

And there are people in this country who want to send them home.