ZEN AND THE ART OF CAR WASHING

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You can always tell when spring arrives in New England. Daffodils pop

up, snow banks are hard to find, and car freaks invade the shopping

mall parking lots with their weekend car shows. These auto exhibitionists

have switched their convertibles into topless mode, throwing

open their hoods to expose their gleaming engines to onlookers.

Some passersby will sneak a peek. Others don’t get it. To them, well polished

carburetors and shiny spark plug wires are a temptation

easily resisted.

It’s a disturbed mind that spends an entire afternoon with Q-tips,

polishing the car’s dashboard instrument cluster. For anyone to dedicate

his or her life to detailing greasy engines and simonizing bumpers

and rear axles is sick! Auto engines are filthy. They are meant to

be filthy! God never intended these engines to be scrubbed so clean

you could eat off them. You want your scrambled eggs and bacon?

Get a dinner plate. You want the grime and mud off your car? Drop

a few coins in the ScrubaDub Car Wash. Leave your hood down to

cover up your motor—because normal people don’t need to know,

don’t even care, about that muck accumulating on your engine’s cylinder

block. There are no engine police inspectors checking to see if

the valve cover has gunk on it.

 

Onlookers might be fooled into thinking they

are seeing exquisite motorcars far superior to their own rust buckets.

Little do they realize they are witnessing something much darker.

In reality, what they are looking at is the wasted lives of guys

with troubled minds and far too much free time. I know this because

I am one of those troubled guys.

What we do is compulsive. We’ve got an out-of-control obsession

that is not normal. We squander countless hours fussing over

our cars like a mother orangutan grooms her young.

There is no single diagnosis that explains why my fraternity of

troubled individuals wastes their lives with rags in hand, polishing.

 

According to one theory, some of us have this peculiar mind-set:

our cars are material extensions of our egos. If you kick our bumpers

or fenders, we feel as though you’ve kicked us in the kneecaps.

Alternatively, when we see people gathered around our shiny, vision-of-

perfection roadsters, our egos soar to euphoric highs.

 

For other distraught guys, a day spent scrubbing and wiping

is a therapeutic thing. According to this thesis, washing all those

splotches of tar, grime, and bug splats down the drain is like purging

the mind of its torment. Polishing our cars provides the same self-realization

fulfillment as we would get spending an hour with our

psychotherapists—at a price we can afford.

 

For still others, this is a transformational, Zen moment.

Remember the Karate Kid movie where Japanese Master Miyagi

helps the young man realize his quest to become a martial arts

champ? The kid is promised that if he waxes the master’s pickup

truck, the inner mysteries of karate will be revealed to him. The kid

keeps scouring and polishing. After weeks of scrubbing, he not only

wins his championship and the pretty girl; he also becomes one with

the universe—and Miyagi’s old truck. All of us car-washing guys

should be so lucky. (I’m still waiting.)

Then there are guys who are more difficult to diagnose. They

are called to the chamois skin and car wax by some inexplicable,

higher force of nature.

Car guys feels an imperative primal urge—a bit like the wildebeest migrating

across the Serengeti. He gets the call. He doesn’t think

about it. He just ups and goes.

When the first sunny day of spring arrives, I pay homage to this

car cleansing force. Once the warmer

weather arrives, my roadster must sparkle! That higher power calls

down, “Grab the chamois, the soap, and the hose!”

Who am I to contradict a thundering voice like that?

 

Is that a scratch in the wheel well?

Are there pebbles stuck in the tire tread?

Is that a fingerprint on the windshield?

All must be whisked away.

By the end of the day, I’ve had more than enough. With

sunburn, sweat on my brow, and an ache in my shoulders, I stand

back to admire the immaculate results of my labors. The garage is

a pigsty of mud puddles, filthy paper towels, and overpriced squirt

cans. My body feels crippled, and my wife’s weekend chore list hasn’t

been touched.

But not to worry. Sitting there, gleaming like a movie star on the

red carpet, is my roadster. My mind is torment-free, and I’m at one

with the universe. What could be better?

That’s not crazy, is it?

Categories: Humor

2 replies

  1. I named my 300c Adenauer “Eloquent” so I could tell friends that I spent my weekend “Waxing Eloquent”!

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