That Time at the Car Wash

It was like an unspoken dare. Dad pulled the family car into the automatic car wash, rolled the window down and completed the transaction. For some reason my brother Cheo and I had our windows down in the back seat as well. Our little sister, probably 7 or 8 at the time, sat between us in the back of that blue ’88 Buick Century. Cheo and I were in our early teens and completely full of ourselves as teen boys are.

“Roll the windows up, boys,” Dad said as the car stared to float into the long wind tunnel of a car wash. Cheo and I both stared at each other with a “you first” look. As the car slowly rolled deeper into the machines we each fixed our resolve. Neither wanted to cave and roll up their window first.

Little Ayanna started shrieking, “Zik! Cheo! Roll up the windows!” Mom and Dad in the front seat saw what was about to happen but let boys be boys.

Soon enough soapy water started spraying into the back windows as Cheo and I continued our stare-off, eyes locked, neither of us so much as cracking a hint of a grin. But inside we were both laughing hysterically as the moment played out. Ayanna kept shrieking as the three of us in the back continued to get drenched as the car slowly slid along the track through the long hall, the big brushes spinning and slapping the sides of the doors in quick rhythm.

Mom and Dad were totally silent in the front, Dad with a resignedly stoic expression and Mom watching Ayanna squirm around between her two stubborn brothers, resigned to her fate. Ayanna was now more entertained than angry or scared while the two-minute automatic car wash eventually got to the end of the line.

The car emerged from the giant machine spotless, glistening in the broad daylight and dripping where the huge air blower missed spots. Dad calmly put the car in gear and drove out.

I think I cracked first, bursting into raucous laughter once we were clear of the car wash. Cheo also laughed heartily despite his soaked hair and clothes. Dad quietly drove us home where we changed into dry clothes, both feeling victorious at our little game of car wash window chicken.

The whole episode was a farce, but one of those family memories that I remember whenever I go through an old-fashioned car wash with the big brushes and noisy blowers.

But now I put my windows up.

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