Addyman's CornerColumnists

Wet and Wild

Taking tradition of car washing to whole new level

By John Addyman

Milk Crate hose and dirty carThere are parts of hot and sticky summer weather I love.

I like to watch my grandson mow the lawn. That’s very relaxing.

On especially hot days, I enjoy watching my wife grill dinner. That’s very fulfilling.

When it’s humid enough that you have to peel your shirt off at the end of the day, I value the lady that delivers our mail in all that, with her wide-brimmed hat on. She is special.

But the one thing I love to do in hot weather is wash my car.

My parents had a Paul Detlefsen painting hanging over the fireplace in the den, “Horse and Buggy Days.” It pictured a young man watching a blacksmith shoe a horse next to a carriage, in front of the blacksmith’s red barn, with big trees all around.

The framed painting was something my dad sold, along with furniture, up and down the east coast. I think you could find that same painting in about every 200th home.

I guess I kind of replicate that painting, because almost every time I wash my car, I think about it.

For instance, I like to wash my car under the shade of a tree and, like the blacksmith, I don’t mind if people come watch me or say something as they walk past on our sidewalk or drive slowly by.

I’m out with the car for at least a couple of hours, so it seems that someone almost always pauses to say something.

These days I don’t see a lot of other people washing their cars in their yards or driveways. I guess we’re blessed with too many convenient car-wash businesses.

But I like to get up close and personal with my car. We often have conversations, he and I.

Most of you would say, “Wait a minute – he just called his car ‘he’ – isn’t it a ‘she’?”

That’s an interesting question. I drove a 1979 Mustang Turbo TRX. That was a “she” because she was temperamental. My Miata was a “she” because she was so small and fun loving. My Nissan 350Z was a “she” because she could scare the pants off me.

But now I have a Corvette with 436 OMG horsepower in crystal red metallic paint and he is definitely a he.

Starting that baby up in the morning raises the testosterone level of every male within 100 yards. I’m amazed we don’t have more babies in the neighborhood.

People don’t ask me if the ‘Vette is a midlife-crisis vehicle: They should, because it isn’t. My first midlife-crisis ride was a 750cc Yamaha Virago motorcycle; my second was a Mitsubishi Eclipse GT rice-burner hot rod I loved them both.  The ‘Vette is my late-life-crisis vehicle.

My car-cleaning process starts by assembling my tools. I grab some of the old bath and hand towels my wife saves for me, get the bucket, the sponges, the wheel brush, the car wash with carnuba wax, detailing spray, and something to drink.

Out in the garage, I turn on the radio and I love listening to opera while the car is getting cleaned. A little Puccini or Wagner is perfect for car washing, but any decent company-keeping music is fine.

I park the car under the tree, on the grass, get out the hose and retrieve my very special tool — a metal milk crate.

Unexpected surprise

You might wonder about that milk crate. It’s a heavy, wired thing, perfect for about six glass gallon jugs of milk. When I bought it at a garage sale, I had no idea what to do with it. But this year, with my knees going snap, crackle and pop, I’ve ensconced myself on that wonderful milk crate so I can wash the wheels and the tailpipes (yes, Corvette owners do that), and pay more attention to the bottom of the car.

The crate is easy to sit on, and more importantly, easier to lift my butt off most of the time. The metalwork is open on all sides, so it’s easy to grip.

I never thought I’d have an adventure while washing my car, but it happened just a couple of weeks ago.

When I wash my car on a hot day, I’m also ready for the heat. I wear a junky T-shirt and gym shorts, plus sandals. I know I’m going to get wet; in fact, the hotter it is, the less I care if I get wet. The gym shorts are elastic and have pockets, and because they’re long and it’s hot, I usually don’t need underwear.

That last fact has some importance to this story.

My car likes to be washed. I think it has another color it saves for me to be revealed right after the soapsuds come off. And when I tell it, “You look great,” I think its adds a bit of a blush to its redness. When I buff it just a little bit, I swear it has a smoothness it was anxious to show me.

I had gotten the whole car washed and was now taking care of the wheels — the first chrome wheels I’ve ever had on a car. I moved the milk crate next to the wheel, sat down and rinsed the wheel, grabbed the bucket, and dropped the hose.

Our hose has a trigger-type nozzle. My son visits every couple of weeks to wash his car in the same spot (the apple didn’t fall far from the tree), and he likes to buy the hose nozzles. The one he got this summer seems to have a higher resistance — it kind of holds the pressure at certain levels all by itself.

When I dropped the hose, it unfolded with the nozzle right under the milk crate I was sitting on. And the hose turned itself on just as it hit the ground, pointed straight up at the top of the crate, where I was sitting.

Ladies and gentlemen, I don’t think I’ve ever had a feeling like that in my life.

It was a hot day. I had been working more than an hour on the car. The water coming out of the hose was very cold. There were parts of me experiencing wet cold that almost never do that all by themselves.

Those old gym pants weren’t much of a barrier to the torrent. I was getting a bidet-quality soaking I’d never requested, and it surprised me so much I couldn’t get up quickly.

I spread my legs and the water came straight up between my legs like a fountain, up over my head. As I tried to wiggle myself up and off the crate, the stream blew up one leg, then the other, then into more personal places that caused me to exclaim, “YeeHAW and Hells Bells!!!”

Away from the crate, I tugged at the hose and the trigger quit. Things were calm again. I was soaked from head to toe. I was also cleaner than I’d been in a long time.

When I got the car done and dry and put away an hour later, I went into the kitchen, where my wife was sitting. The window next to her looks out to where I was washing the car.

“You were screaming,” she said. “You OK?”

“I’m clean,” I told her. “Very, very clean.”