Talkin’ Bout the Car Wash…yeah yeah yeah yeah


My stepsisters came to stay with us every other weekend, and it was something I had grown to look forward to.  I had lived for 15 years with only a brother, and found that I really liked these stepsisters  a lot–in fact, I grew to love them a lot over the years.  One of them, Lyn, is 6 months older than I am, and we were in the same grade in different schools.  Lyn is short for ‘Carolyn’, and she is Grandmothah Bennett’s namesake.  When the girls were at our house (their father’s house), this meant that Grandmothah was sure to show up at any given time.  We could bet money that she would be there bright and early Saturday morning.  When we got a little older, this really sucked if we had sneaked out and had 1  (or 3)  too many Budweisah’s….  Grandmothah Bennett would come barreling down the driveway at Robin’s Nest Farm in her white Bonneville with the navy blue velour interior about 8:00am–like clockwork.  The yip yip dogs (a term used to describe a rat terrier and a mini yorkie, who thought they could eat you alive) would go ape shit when they would hear her car screech to a halt, kicking up gravel.  She would stub out her lipstick-stick stained Misty Menthol in her already overflowing ashtray, then she would put her giant purse on her lap and dig through it for 10 minutes until she found her lipstick.  She would flip the lighted mirror down on the sun visor and put her lipstick on–moving her lips and holding the lipstick perfectly still.  I have said that she was the only person I have ever known who could do that, but actually, I have seen The Middle Child do it! It’s an art! A REAL talent.  Anyway.  She would then fling her car door open.  I swear a Cheech and Chong-worthy smoke cloud would billow out as she hoisted herself out of the car, giant purse on her arm.  Always in her chunky heels, she would teeter on the brick walkway, up to the door and yell into the house until somebody came to the door–all the while, the dogs barking their heads off at her.  God she was a sight.  We would come into the kitchen and she would want us to all give her a hug.  I say all.  She would take a hug from me, but she really meant just her grandgirls, and I wasn’t really one of them–not at that point, anyway.  I became one over time, but at the time that this story took place, I was still relatively new to Grandmothah, and she was not the most…well…she wasn’t the most accepting person right off the bat.  After a few minutes of visiting, Grandmothah told us she was headed to the car wash in town.  Since it happened to be just a week or two away from Lyn getting her learner’s permit, Lyn asked Grandmothah if she could drive her to the car wash.   Grandmothah always said “yes” when everyone else said “no”–just like any good grandmother does.  So….again, if my memory serves me, we just said that we were going to ride with Grandmothah to the car wash, still in our pajamas (because this was small town Saturday and we were not going in anywhere),  and Lyn and I went out and I got in the back seat with 2 bags of trash that smelled like they had been there for 2 weeks, and Lyn got in the front and Grandmothah drove us out of the driveway and pulled over and then let Lyn drive to town.  (Yes, I do realize that was a really long sentence.)  We had made our clean getaway.  Now, I could have it confused.  Mothah could have known.  We could have just kept it a secret from Bob.  It has been 30 years, so forgive me.  The car wash was at Speed Break, which was a convenience store on 441.  In fact, it was the hang out, drive-by spot at night for teenagers.  Don’t ask me why.  We are talking about Madison, GA in 1985, 1986.  There were 2 or 3 stop lights at the time.  It was not the booming metropolis that it is today.  Here is another place where my memory is foggy.  I cannot, for the life of me, remember who drove into the car wash!  Either Lyn drove in, or she and Grandmothah switched again and Grandmothah drove in.  Anyway, whoever drove the damn Bonneville in, drove it in crooked.  And by crooked, I mean, half off the track.  And this car wash was not one of those with the great big round red and white bristly brush thingies.  This was a new ’80’s car wash.  It was a big silver thing that was elongated and revolved around the sides of the car. I remember saying that it was going to hit the car because we were not on the track, and I clearly remember Grandmothah barking back at me, “It will be FINE!” So I shut up, which is what she intended for me to do.    It started in the front and went around the driver’s side and around the back,  fine. When it started going around the passenger’s side,  I knew we were going to have a major problem.  It hit the side of the Bonneville.  It made a terrible noise and kept going all the way up the side.  Lyn and I looked at each other and our eyes got big and Grandmothah started screaming in the Misty Menthol voice, “OH DEAH FATHAH HELP US! HELP US!” And Lyn and I started laughing.  It was the uncontrollable kind of laughing.  The I-might-wet-my-pants kind of laughing.  Then, Grandmothah turned around and pointed a crookedy finger at me and screamed, “JENNIFAH! GET OUT AND GET THIS DAMN THING OFF THE CAH!” like I was Hercules or something.  Remember now, I was in my pajamas.  Which were actually yellow scrubs from the Greenville Hospital System. I had cut the pants off at the knees.  Oh, and…I was barefooted.  It was 8:00am when Grandmothah arrived at our house, remember? So, I got the hell out of the car.  I was actually relieved to get a breath of something other than old trash.  The car wash thingy was still spewing out water and soap, and it was stuck hard onto the Bonneville.  No amount of my trying to move it would budge it.  My laughing problem was not helping either.  I got back in the car.  Now, all I could smell was soaking-wet-2-week-old-garbage, Misty-Menthol-infused-velour.  I thought I might throw up.   Grandmothah made the executive decision that we would just drive right out of there.  “It’s not a good idea”, I said, “It will really tear up the car, and it will break the car wash.” Grandmothah said the car was already torn up and she did not give a damn about the car wash.  So, again, I shut up, as was the intention.  I say that I shut up, but you must understand that Lyn and I were laughing so hard this entire time–that awful kind of can’t-stop-laughing.  The kind of laughing that physically hurts.  So, whoever was driving, drove the Bonneville right out of the car wash.  There was a horrible sound and an even more awful noise, as the giant thing left a huge, black dent in the car and ripped the passenger’s side view mirror off and left it dangling by some wires.   I remember saying, “We should really go tell somebody” and I remember Grandmothah saying “HELL NO!” and I remember laughing. Lots and lots of laughing.  When we got back out to the house, Grandmothah said, “DON’T TELL LYDIA!” Lydia would be my Mothah.  I guess she did not want us to tell her because Lyn did not even have a learner’s permit yet and Grandmothah let Lyn drive.  I don’t know.  That’s why I said several times–my brain is foggy on this one.  But one thing was for sure, we told Lydia the minute we walked in the door.  We had to.  She was standing in the kitchen and saw us drive up.  Lyn and I had barely gotten out of the car good before the Bonneville was kicking up gravel and Grandmothah was gettin’ the hell outta dodge.  I was soaking wet with soapy water and smelled like trash and Misty Menthol’s. And Lyn and I were still laughing. Hell, it has been 30 years and I am still laughing….

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