Over the weekend, I parked my car under a tree. It was pelted with green organic vileness. It is a white car. It looked ill.

So at lunchtime today I took it to a car wash, one of those cool automated ones that look so inviting. I've never done that before. I usually just wait for some rain, but the car looked so sad and scruffy -- and no sign of rain -- that I got uncharacteristically proactive about it.

Have you seen The Freshman? It's a great movie, but I'm afflicted with recurrent hallucinatory nightmares of Robert Preston in a tuxedo belting out "Maggie's Farm" on a revolving stage. A man can stand up and face that kind of thing in the broad light of day, but it's not the mojo you want to be wrassling with at 4:00 AM.

It's everywhere you look, if you know what to look for.

So anyhow I took my car to the car wash. "A man who wants to wash his car himself is certainly damned, isn't he?" It seems logical enough.

Well. Maybe, maybe not. I'm no theologian, not when it comes to car care.

At first the car wash was nice. I pulled into the vestibule and aimed my left wheel into a sort of longitudinal trough in the floor with moving parts in the bottom of it. I paid the nice man in the boat six dollars, and he told me to put the car in neutral and stay off the brakes. He and a companion had soapy and watery brushes on the ends of long sticks. They hosed and brushed my car, and hosed it again. This was pleasant: I began to understand why some people might enjoy being "pampered" or "fussed over", a thing which has always been repulsive to me. From behind a layer of good stout glass, it's almost easy to tolerate people.

They folded my side mirrors back so my car looked like a hostile cat, and then the car started moving. I was drawn into the maw of the car wash by irresistable forces. This was unsettling. Wet, sudsy rotating brushes loomed out of the darkness from all directions. The windows were awash in water and suds! I was blinded and helpless. Big bristly rotating brushes, then little fuzzy ones, and then after long confusion I was drawn into a curtain of narrow rubber flaps, several layers of them, each four or five inches wide. I passed through the flaps and I was in the eye of the storm, so to speak, a damp, gloomy cavern in the belly of the beast.

I looked to my left. There was a window set in the side of the passage, and behind it an ill-lit room, and on the window, behind the glass, some posters advertising Teletubbies. Within the passage, hanging from above, tied to a plastic coat hanger, was a Teletubby doll! The red one. Hanging. Swinging gently.


Slowly, peristaltically, remorselessly, the hidden machineries dragged my car past the murdered doll and on into another inferno of suds and rotating brushes. I could not move. I could not speak. The car was no longer under my control. I started to think about my left tires drifting against the side of the mechanical trough and getting wedged there. There was an SUV behind me. It would be dragged into the back of my car if I got stuck. If I put my car in gear and tried to drive, I'd surely get it jammed even worse. I'd be like a rat in a trap. Would I even see the SUV coming? I was lost in suds. They had blinded me.

It was then that I realized that my best hope was to crawl under the dashboard where I'd be safe, and there I stayed for another eternity of inchoate sudsy Chaos. Eventually my car was barfed forth into the parking lot. I restored my side-mirrors and went across the street for some Chicken McNuggets. They'd been under the heat lamp for far too long so it was like eating little deep-fried Weejuns, but I didn't care. I was free.

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