I’ve owned a car since 1988 – not the same one, but not that many. I’m on my third. In those thirty years, I’ve never taken it into a car wash. Which means that I have mostly been driving a dustbin. Things accumulate. Plastic bags, pens, shopping lists, CDs without covers, bits of mud, grass, crumbs. How do those crumbs get there? I hardly ever use the car, much less eat in it. Never, in thirty years, until today. I’ve just treated myself to a valet.
It’s the best feeling. The car’s shiny, the wheels are clean, it smells better, the crumbs have been vacuumed up, the circular marks on the windscreen made by the suction cup for the iphone and the smears which mean in cold weather it’s difficult to see out, and the dust on the dashboard – all gone. It reminds me of being off school with tonsilitis, when your mum runs you a bath and by the time you get out she’s changed the sheets and tidied the bedside table and given you a new pair of pygamas. It was that sort of feeling. Lovely. Cared for. Renewed.
As I drove away I had a think about why I never get my car cleaned. There are a number of likely candidates:
It’s the sort of job you can do yourself – in theory. Though in practice I don’t have the equipment. I don’t have a high pressure hose, or a powerful vacuum which is easy to manoeuvre and has the right sort of nozzle. I don’t have the right soap, or wax, or polish or even cloths, and I can’t even easily reach the middle of the top. I also don’t have the will, or the inclination, which is why my current car has been cleaned twice in the last 3 years, once for money by my son, and once by me for nothing after the snow. Both times not very well.
It will be dirty again quite soon, that’s another good reason, a teenager’s excuse for not cleaning anything, and a historical justification for downgrading the traditional work of women. It’s true, and it’s possibly also true that a car reaches a level of dirt which, with wind and rain, it doesn’t much go beyond.
It costs money – yes it does, but in this case, I thought surprisingly little, even with a tip.
They’re the obvious reasons. But as I looked into it further, actually smiling with the joy of my recent experience, I realised these didn’t reach the crux. I did a mini coaching session on myself to take this (very important) question a step further.
What had held me back?
Fear of what?
Fear of not knowing what to do.
What did I mean?
That I wouldn’t know what to do with the windscreen wipers, or whether to stay in or get out of the car.
Fear of not having a car worthy of taking to a car wash.
Fear that all the other cars there would be Audis and BMWs with newish number plates.
Fear that my car would be too dirty, and I would be ashamed. (My car was dirty and I was a bit embarrassed but no one seemed to mind).
Fear that if I hadn’t done it for 30 years I’d somehow missed the boat.
Absurd, isn’t it – (no it’s not – this is a coaching session – all material is valid, there are no judgements). It’s a car wash. A hand car wash, with guys that know what they were doing, and do it very well.
I am trying to think what other perfectly normal easy things I’ve avoided for god knows what reasons. Probably quite a few. I think I often anticipate difficulty and allow that anxiety to put me off. I will probably carry on doing that. But with one less hurdle on the list.
Are there any ordinary everyday activities that you have never tried?
*actually that’s not completely true – in 1991, after a 10 litre tin of newly mixed paint opened in the way home and spilled into a lake over the back of my Nissan Micra, Homebase paid for the car to be cleaned and started clipping the lids down.