Death of a Station Wagon & the End of an Era

You can’t trust people. You can’t rely on them.

I’m saying you can’t trust them because they’re dishonest or disloyal.

Even if they’re full of good intentions, they’re human and we all have failings.

So you can’t trust people.

Allow me to illustrate this with how my family’s station wagon died in a bizarre car wash accident.

You see, ahead of Labor Day weekend many years ago, my Dad decided he needed to put some money into his then 10-year-old station wagon. New brakes, some other work. The reason he was doing this — making this capital expenditure on this old battle wagon — was he wanted to give it to his youngest child. A teenage daughter at the start of her senior year in high school. That would be me. Growing up in New Jersey, you don’t a driver’s license until you’re 17. Finally getting your license is a big deal, let alone the keys to the car. It was gonna happen.

My father asked me to go with him to pick it up. Then, he remarked how beautifully it was driving and said that whenever you get maintenance done on your vehicle you should also get it washed.

On the way to the car wash, he talked about all the virtues of this vehicle. It handled well. It had a strong engine. It was reliable. It never broke down. It took two kids to college, carried us on long drives to South Carolina, took on vacations to the Cape. It was a wonderful vehicle. It would be yours. Yours to drive. You want even have to ask permission. He was trusting me.

We pulled up to the car wash and an attendant took over the vehicle and pulled it up to the track. My father and I went inside and they had that wonderful array of windows so you can see your vehicle getting swooshed along with those spaghetti-like sponges massaging it. My dad remarked that the spongers actually look dmore like linguini.

At that point, the station wagon burst through the linguini sponges. You could hear the engine roar. It was tearing through the car wash. It blasted past the spiral sponges that look like wacky Dr. Seuss shubbery. Then we heard the crash.

I’d never seen my father run. I had never seen him curse. It was a spectacle.

When we got to the end of the line, the vehicle was up against a concrete wall. It was smashed in. The hood was bent up. The two car wash attendants were standing there, breathing hard, having run through the car wash themselves, covered in soap suds and pointing at each other.

They pulled it out and the manager said, “Put it through again. Get all that soap and broken glass off of it.” As it was driven away, you could see the frame was bent and it was lurching forward cattywompus.

There was a row of guys outside. The hand dryers with the towels. Usually, they have their hands raised in expectation of their next task. The towels dropped. Their jaws dropped. The vehicle went around the block.

You can’t trust people.

I relied on my dad that I would have this vehicle. He had relied on the car wash attendants to properly take care of it. I melted into tears. I had my head on my hands. I heard a voice. She said, “Oh my God, honey, why are you crying?!” I looked up. There it was. I beheld a presence in a baby blue pantsuit, polyester of course. Gigantic, red bouffant hair. Dragon lady nails. The entire presentation was resplendent with excessive gold jewelry.

I told her what had happened. She gasped. Clutching her hand to her chest. “Oh my God, it could have been my Caddy!” I looked behind her. A beautiful, big, fancy, tacky Cadillac sedan was being ushered up to the towel dryers. They began to respectfully started buffing the Cadillac. Suddenly, the visage before me ran to the Caddy and waved off the towel dryers. She jumped behind the wheel and peeled out of there, burning rubber.

You can’t trust people. She knew. She didn’t even want them to dry it.

A couple of months later, another lady was pulling up to the car wash in a Jaguar. A school bus came down the road ferrying a high school field hockey team. The girls leaned out the windows, hollering, “Don’t do it!” They knew. Their teammate had lost a station wagon there. You can’t trust people.