I’m nostalgic for a car wash.
Of all the things to drag me free from the fug of a self-destructive whingegasm, a car wash is at once the most and least surprising.
When I was even littler than I am now, I used to drag my mother across the street, so I could hold her hand whilst we watched the mechanical behemoth. Its brushes span wildly, chucking water into the air, and spraying my beaming little face. It was the best thing in the world, with its giant blue foam rotary brushes and fading red metal frame.
And with each passing summer, new wonders were bolted to it; the wheel scrubbers, the wax hoses, and the air dryer that came down and miraculously followed the shape of the car trapped within.
But then I got a little older, and the wonder faded. I even began to resent it somewhat, especially if it sprayed me on my chocolate run to the shop.
It’s never as fun from the inside
A few years ago, I wandered past the car wash and saw a boy. He wasn’t young, but he wasn’t quite a teenager – maybe about eleven or twelve. But he was stood by the car wash, alone, grinning wildly as it swished and swooshed around a nondescript Ford. And each and every time he was sprayed with the fine cloud of water, he bounced up and down, and clapped his hands with a loud laugh.
I kept seeing him there for the next few days, and his excitement and joy always made me grin.
That’s when a group of three boys, who couldn’t have been much older than him, maybe just a year, wandered by and saw him too. They jeered at him. It was upsetting to realise that I saw more of myself in their cynical sneering, than in his giddy wonderment. That feeling was only made worse as I watched his head drop in embarrassment, and his shoulders slump with a realisation that perhaps he was a little too old to be enjoying himself like this.
The surly teens slouched away, dragging his final throes of childhood with them.
It was horrible.
And then the car wash drenched him once more.
It would have been a fitting metaphor.
Except that the water shook him from his own fug, and once again he bounced and clapped and giggled.
The teens turned back and sneered.
He ignored them.
He stood and played there every day for the rest of the summer.
Good for him.