When I was a kid washing the car was a treat. My brother Chris and I went crazy when dad let us help. To be honest, we were never much help. Washing the car was really an excuse to have a water fight. (Translation: Express all of our pent-up sibling aggression.)
Chris’ car washing duties were far-reaching (He was and is as tall as I am short), he got to scrub the sides of the car, the windows and most importantly, he got to use the hose. I was so small, I was relegated to washing the white walls. Most kids graduate from white walls by the time they are eight. Not me, I was eight, the size of a four year old and still on white walls. Everyone knows it’s the least glamorous duty, as there is no access to the hose. This also made me defenseless during water fights. (My brother was not charitable and I always ended up soaked.)
Our car was an enormous 1970s station wagon with faux wood metal paneling (The Brown Bomber). You know the ones with their own zip code. By the time I started Catholic school the next year, it had become a great source of embarrassment. My dad drove me to school and every morning the bomber shot off a disgusting, smokey exhaust bomb in the schoolyard. Kids used to see it approaching and scatter like buckshot. But that was later, at age eight I still wanted the responsibility of washing it.
One summer afternoon, while my brother was at sleep-away camp, I asked my dad if we could wash the car. (I was an opportunist. I also got the toy out of the cereal that week.) Dad surprisingly said yes and got the bucket ready for me. I spent some time negotiating my release from white wall duty, but dad just wanted to get the car washed. He started rambling on about how “He had other things to do, like work blah, blah,” and to “Just wait, I’ll be back.” My dad went in the house and I begrudgingly started on the white walls. I finished them quite quickly and since my father wasn’t back, I seized the “opportunity” and started washing the “fine wood grain paneling,” (what I could reach of it at least). Having completed the paneling and still no sign of my dad, I figured I’d start on the hood. I couldn’t reach it from the ground, so I climbed up, scrubbed, climbed back down and rinsed. Then genius set in and I decided to do the roof. So, I climbed on the massive roof and started scrubbing. I had to work quickly, because there was no telling when my dad would reappear. Needless to say, I would have been in deep trouble, if he caught me wandering around the roof of the bomber.
I was scrubbing hard, when suddenly, I felt like I was being watched. I looked up and cars were slowing down in front of the house, some of the them actually stopped. One lady called out, “Are you ok?” I said yes and continued with my scrubbing. Then she asked “What are you doing?” I said, “Washing the car.” (uh duh) Then she said, “Do your parents know where you are?” (I didn’t really have time for this lady’s questions, I was on a deadline.) Then she asked if my parents knew what I was doing. I looked her straight in the eye and answered yes. She believed me, because little kids are bad liars, I wasn’t really little and had long since mastered the art of lying. So, she drove off, probably very puzzled. More cars stopped and stared (It was like a parade.) The attention didn’t faze me. I was used to a lot of attention (All little people are), but I kept on with the business of washing the car. At this point I needed the hose. I climbed back down, grabbed the hose, climbed back up and stood on the roof rinsing. I was having so much fun! I didn’t have to share with my brother and my dad was too pre-occupied to tell me to stick to the white walls. As I was hosing down the roof, my neighbor, Mr. Giovanni stopped his car and said, “Cara, what are you doing?” I said, “I am washing the car.” (In my head I was like uh duh, what does it look like I am doing? What is wrong with these people?) Mr. Giovanni shook his head, laughed and drove to his house. This should have been my warning to get off the roof, but I was having too much fun spraying the water.
Mr. Giovanni reappeared on foot, just as my father was coming out the front door. The jig was up, I was surrounded and caught red-handed. I was standing on the roof of the car with a hose. (There was no way explain that.) My dad said, “Cara what are you doing?” (Again, In my head, I said uh duh what does it look like?) I answered, “Washing the car, you were taking too long.” Mr. Giovanni was in hysterics at this point. All my father could say through his laughter was “Well I wondered why traffic was stopping in front of the house.” I didn’t get in trouble that day. My dad couldn’t stop laughing long enough to reprimand me.
P.S. I also got out of white wall duty!!!