I learned something about myself recently. And it wasn't pretty. We all have our little phobias that may or may not make sense to anyone else: Heights, Snakes, Spiders, Clowns. My most silly one? Car washes!
I'm as terrified of car washes now as I was when I was six. After lunch one day, my friend Susan stopped and got gas for her car and paid for a car wash. She asked me if I would mind if she ran the car through the wash before we headed back to work. As I was in no particular hurry to actually get back to work, and we still had plenty of time, I said “Sure! Why not.” She pulled up to the automated car wash; punched in the key code. I watched as the door opened - and I had that split second moment of knowing that I should say "Um, see you on the other side!" and get the heck out of the car while I still had the chance. But the rational part of my brain said "Oh stop it! That was a long time ago. You can't still be afraid of car washes, silly!"
So there I sat.
We start to creep in. Those thingies that clean off the sides of car start to rev up. The water starts coming from out of nowhere. Then the suds. We've made it onto the track and the car is in neutral and we are sloooooooowly being moved along. Claustrophobia sets in. I hear myself making hysterical "Oh god oh god oh god" comments. My poor friend looks at me as if I've lost my mind. My eyes are squeezed as tightly shut as they possibly could be and I added my hands along the sides of my eyes as blinders - extra protection, I suppose. I nearly screech (I probably actually did screech) "I'm very afraid of car washes!" and she laughs at me and says "Why didn't you say anything? I asked you!" I am clearly not in a place where I can have a sane conversation. Why didn't I say anything??? Oh because it's just way too much fun to become terrified of the cleaning thingies whooshing all around you and sudsy water being squirted every which way. It suddenly got very dark (I could tell this through my tightly shut eyelids and my hand blinders) and she calmly tells me, still trying not to laugh, that it's just cleaning the car. I open one eye and realize there's now more cleaning thingies whirling and whoosing about our heads. To which I immediately squeeze my eye shut again and continue my rant of "oh god oh god oh god." She started asking me a question about my latest guy crush (she's no dummy!) and - and I cannot stress this enough - this is how panicked I was - I couldn't utter one single word about him. Not one. Usually, that's my "happy place" and I bore my friends senseless with idle chatter about him. But not at that moment.
We finally (How long does a car wash last? An eternity when you are irrationally afraid of them!) get closer towards the exit and my "oh gods" become quite loud. My poor friend says "What now?!" to which I say, "That blower dryer thingy is going to come down and roll over the top of your car and it's going to squish us and we will drown!" (Yes, that was my clear, intelligent thought process at that moment.) She calmly tries to point out to me that "No, there are two blowers on either side of the car that stay stationary and we'll just drive past them" but that would have required my opening my eyes to notice. I think I might have just gone back to my "oh god oh god oh god" hysteria.
Needless to say we made it safely through the car wash. The car was not squished. We did not drown. No boogie man with a white mask jumped out at us from behind the whirling, whoosing cleaning thingies to kill us both with a huge knife (because this is, I am certain, what actually happens in car washes).
*This was written in 2009. I’m pleased to report that I have been able to (mostly) conquer my fear of car washes, and have even been known to take my own car into one. Any screeching anyone may, or may not, hear during this time is purely coincidental.