Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Car Wash, the Firemen, and Me

As I was approaching my car in the parking garage the other day, I noticed that it looks really crummy. We've had some snow recently, and the poor thing is just covered in crusty road salt-it's gotten so bad that you can hardly tell what color it is. While I was making plans to go to the car wash, I remembered another post-snowfall trip to get the car cleaned up. Let's just say that it didn't end very well.

My husband and I had bought our car about six months prior to the incident, and I was still deep in the honeymoon phase. I kept it spotless, and I was (obsessively) concerned that road salt might damage the paint. So, on a bright January day, I headed off to the automatic (touchless! no scratches, you know) car wash on my lunch hour to soap off a week's worth of salt. The temperature outside was only 26 degrees, but there was a sign posted that said the car wash operated down to 15 degrees. I paid, rolled into the bay, sat through the wash cycle, and waited for the front door to open so that I could head back to work.

Except the door didn't open.

Luckily, I'm not claustrophobic or anything, so I was pretty calm at this point. I peered out the windows to see if there was an emergency release switch I could activate to open the door, but then I realized that I didn't really feel comfortable with the idea of getting out of the car. You know, in case the car wash turned on somehow. I could just see the headline: WOMAN TRAPPED, SUDSED TO DEATH IN CAR WASH. Um, no thanks. I was still pondering about what to do when, in my rearview mirror, I saw a car pull up to pay for a wash. Saved! I was sure that the front door would open as soon as the person deposited their money.

Except the front door still didn't open. The rear door, however, did.

I could see the car-wash-wanting person behind me, gesturing and waving his arms. Apparently, he thought I was just hanging out in there, relaxing, instead of realizing that I was stuck. Eventually, he gave up and drove off...which provided me with the opportunity to try to back out of the wash bay. Saved (possibly)! As I backed up, I heard some sort of machinery whir to life, followed by a sickening scraping sound. I felt the car shudder, and I realized that the door had closed again. On. My. Car.

Oh, crap. Both doors are closed, my car is at least partially squished, and I still can't get out. I decided that my only option was to call 911. The fire station was right next door to the Car Wash from Hell, so I could see (through the !@#$ front door) the firemen streaming out, pulling on their gear. One of them pried up the rear bay door, found the emergency shut-off, and guided me out. They figured out that the front door had frozen to the ground, which was why it wouldn't open. One of the firemen asked why I didn't get out and activate the emergency switch, then looked very amused when I answered, "I was scared that I would get washed."

When I examined my car, I found that the rear lift gate was merely scraped, not squished, and the damage looked fairly minor. Unfortunately, the situation took a turn for the worse after I contacted the owner of the car wash. I (very reasonably) requested that he pay for the repairs. He low-balled his estimate at some shady repair place; I refused to accept it; and I spent two months fighting him. I eventually decided that life was too short to spend it dealing with greedy little people, and I cashed his paltry check.

Since I'm incredibly lazy, I still use automatic car washes, but now I make sure that there are no doors. If you're too lazy to wash your car, here's a tip: always take your cell phone, and, for Heaven's sake, watch out for the suds.


Kathy said...

What an incredible story. I can't believe this hasn't happened to me (as you know, stuff like this follows me everywhere). I would have been mad, too. I know the new car honeymoon lasts a year or so. It's too bad the car wash owner was such a jerk about it. His fault! I'm sorry you were so ascairt. But you're braver than me! I would have burst into tears and someone would have found me frozen, with crispy eyes, the next morning.

absepa said...

Kathy: I laugh about it now, but it was kind of traumatizing at the time. Given my past history, I'm kind of surprised I didn't burst into tears. I'm not really known for my bravery. :)

Anonymous said...

OMG...what a story!! Usually that kind of stuff happens to me, and no one believes that it REALLY wasn't my fault!BTW, carwash owner's a jerk! I don't think I would have gotten out either because it probably would have started and slammed me into something or squashed me!

Jewelielyn said...

this made me laugh out loud! i could just picture it . . . i was just checking out blog designs tonight and was immediately sucked into yours--very entertaining. i'll be back :)

absepa said...

Jewelielyn: Thanks for commenting! I love my blog was exactly what I wanted.