Modern manners through the whirl of a car wash |

Modern manners through the whirl of a car wash

Tony Vagneur
Saddle Sore

While waiting in line at the Willits car wash in El Jebel, the one where an attendant preps your car with a power washer and a hand rag just before you enter the automatic whirligig, there usually isn’t much to write about, but the other day, a person piqued my interest, just by his out-of-the-ordinary behavior. At first, it wasn’t much, just some guy throwing car mats out of a white car, dumping the contents of the mats onto the freshly cut, green grass along the curb. Some transgressions can be forgiven, I guess, what with the return of the sun and a hope for summer weather.

As he was messing with this project, oblivious to the cars behind him, a couple of big cars went through the automatic car wash and the line behind him was beginning to block traffic. It looked like perhaps he wasn’t there for the wash but just for the opportunity to throw his detritus out onto the lawn. There was an open gap of three or four cars between him and the person he followed and I was seriously toying with the idea of cutting in front of him when finally, he picked up the mats and moved his car ahead.

Still, I hadn’t paid that much attention to the whole matter and turned my engine off, complacently waiting while those in front of us proceeded through the wash. About then, the guy stuck his shirtless, scrawny upper body out through the open driver-side window, I mean clear down to the waist, both eyes open wide and looking at me, propping himself up with one arm, and with one nostril blocked by the other hand, blew a wad of snot about the size of Long Island onto to the concrete driveway, right where most folks walk when they go inside to get tip change. What didn’t clear his chin, he wiped off with the back of his bare hand. This guy, who looked to be about in his late 20s, was starting to get my attention.

OK, by now it’s clear the guy is a jackass, but he’s in front of me in line and I’ll just have to wait it out. “What kind of a car was it?” you say? One of those Land Rover things, a Discovery, the kind your grandma or cheapskate brother-in-law drives, not one of the big ones.

In a framework reminiscent of Robert Frost, there are miles to go before this tale is done. At last, the line moves again, and just as the attendant starts to steam clean the Land Rover, Mr. Cool hollers out the passenger-side window to “Stop!” By pointing and jabbing with his finger, he makes it clear to the Spanish-speaking attendant that he wants the mats removed from the floor of the front seat and taken to the side where the attendant can wash them off. I’m thinking, “That’s good service, if you can get it.”

To make a short story even longer, the Discovery driver next ordered the attendant to not step on the just-cleaned mats and to stack them on a concrete and steel pillar next to the building. A demanding son of a b—-, I’d say.

Then suddenly, in the way of car-wash worlds, Mr. Cool got his chance to enter the automatic whirl-away and I slowly pulled up to where the attendant awaited my arrival. “Did that guy give you a good tip?” I asked.

“No, no, sumb—-, nothing,” came the answer as he punched in the code for my wash.

The thought crossed my mind that in the old days — unlike our modern world where we’re expected to accept everything, to accept every type of behavior without question — we’d have dragged that punk out of his car and taught him some manners and respect for others.

“If it makes you feel any better,” I continued my rant to the attendant, “I noticed his license plates expired over three months ago. The Highway Patrol is gonna have some fun with that guy when they catch him.” Karma at work, I reckon.

Tony Vagneur writes here on Saturdays and welcomes your comments at