Workin’ at the car wash

As the old saying goes, “Nothing reveals a man’s character like when the car wash is broken.”

Wait, that’s not an old saying?

Well, it should be.

The other day, my family was out of town, so I was left to my own devices. I do what I normally do when I am left at home alone, which is try to relax on the couch and watch some TV, which is impossible because all I end up doing is going through a list of all of the things I could actually get done. Also, our dog, Maddux the Stoic, usually insists on sitting either right in front of or on top of me, so I usually abandon the idea rather quickly.

After compiling my mental checklist of to-do items, I set off to be productive. Fix the sliding glass door that was apparently manufactured by a company called Infuriatingly Frustrating Door Products? Check. Start laundry? Check. Walk dog just far enough so the heavens can open up and soak us both? Check.

One by one, I finished my tasks. I then went to the last task, which was to take my car to the car wash and give it a nice good cleaning inside and out.

My go-to car wash place is one of those automated places that runs your car through a big box that shoots water and soap and for some reason has a rather cool light show during the wash.

Post-wash, you can use their free vacuums to get the inside all nice and pretty.

As I pulled into the wash, I saw a sign blocking the entrance, saying it was temporarily closed. However, there was a staff member standing there. I rolled down my window. He said to me, “Just down for maintenance for a minute. But you can go ahead and use the vacuums.”

No problem, I thought. I’ll just do it in the reverse I normally do.

I pulled into a spot and began vacuuming my car. Hey, fun fact: You know those signs that are posted at these places that say, “No loud music”? Yeah, they also mean no blaring your talk radio, guy parked next to me.

After I finished up vacuuming, I saw that they had removed the sign, and the wash was back open. I backed out of my spot and pulled up to the payment area prior to proceeding into the wash. And then I looked over my shoulder and saw one car – a car that arrived after me and pulled into the vacuum station – drive out of the facility, foregoing the wash part, and heading on the down the road.

And this is where his character was revealed. He had come there to get a car wash and pay a few bucks for a car wash and a vacuum. The staff there was kind enough to keep the vacuums open while they fixed things. But the implication was certainly there that we would make good on our original intention of giving them real, actual dollars for their services.

That dude? Nope. Free vacuum! Woo-hoo!

Now, there is certainly a possibility that he had every intention of going through the car wash, but he had just gotten a phone call about an emergency at home that he had to tend to. I put that chance at .01 percent.

More than likely, he just felt like he totally won that day because, hey – free vacuum!

And that stinks. Because if it continues and ramps up even more, what is the car wash company going to do eventually? Realize people are just taking advantage of them and just shut it all down.

So, the next time you are presented with such a kindness from a business, do the right thing. Because remember, like the old saying goes…

Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken, S.C. A graduate of the University of Alabama, he now lives in Mt. Pleasant. You can e-mail him at or follow him on Twitter @StandardMike or at


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