SPEEDING IN THE CAR WASH - The Reykjavik Grapevine

SPEEDING IN THE CAR WASH

SPEEDING IN THE CAR WASH

Published June 25, 2004

I was hired on the spot by the twin brothers who ran the place. Brothers One and Two explained the deal to me, each in turn. I swiveled my head back and forth, finding the same face with the same voice.

BROTHER ONE: We pay once a week, 30% of the total money made divided by how many workers there are.
I nodded. Brother Two piped up.
BROTHER TWO: We pay all in cash, no tax taken out. It’s a good job. Very soon we’re expecting an average of 50 cars a day.
I nodded again. I was beginning to get a heavy David Lynch vibe. Brother One had something to add.
BROTHER ONE: Just remember to always be quick. No one likes to wait.
ME: I gotcha.

I walked off figuring to myself, 30% of 50 cars per day divided by five workers seemed like a pretty good bit of money to take home each week. However, I thought, 30% of zero cars per day divided by five equals, uhh, carry the two…sweet fuck-all.
I shook that thought off. I went to the back room to introduce myself to my workmates. I found the four of them, grey faced and bloodshot eyed, playing cards around the table. I asked one of them if there was anything to do. He shuffled the deck, slammed it on the table with a bang. “We wait”, he said. I was dealt in.
We showed up every morning at 8 o’clock, Monday through Saturday. We left at 6 o’clock every night, and no earlier. In between there was waiting. Waiting and speed. One of my workmates was having a debt owed him payed off, if not in cash then at least in something he could use. So he got speed. It was always there. It made us wait faster. We talked little, never bothered to get to know one another, each caught in this situation for our own reasons. We listened to the radio, “Have a nice day” by Stereophonic was always on. We played with our cell phones. Drummed out complex rythyms on the table and against the concrete walls. We ate candy. We jogged around the block. We read pornography and smoked, one cigarette lighting the next. We stood out front watching as 50 cars per day constantly failed to pull up. Downtown it was summer, suntans and clinking glasses. Here it was chocolate and amphetamine, like the siege of Stalingrad.
This is not to say that cars NEVER came. They came just often enough to give us hope that perhaps the promised 50 cars a day was on the horizon, perhaps tomorrow. Maybe tomorrow we’d have a nice day.
When the odd car did come, they were handled with all the grace of a carjacking. Idiot customer would idle up to the cave-like entrance now and again and roll down his window…

IDIOT CUSTOMER: Hi, I’d like…
CARWASHER: (speeding their ass off) Out.
IDIOT CUSTOMER: …a wash and just some tire…
CARWASHER: Yes? OUT!

The car would be pulled inside at the speed of sound and stopped, tires screeching. Four of us would fall on it like hyenas on a dying gazelle. It was the fifth cat’s job to make small talk with Idiot Customer.

IDIOT CUSTOMER: Beautiful day though, isn’t it?
CARWASHER (pupils dilated, nodding their head too quickly to “Have a nice day” on the radio): What are you, the weatherman?

We could wash, detail, polish and shine one car, depending on size and level of filthiness, in under 13 minutes. That’s quick. We couldn’t help it at this point, it was impossible to slow down. Speed was our way of life.
Brother One or Two (Who could tell the difference? Who cared?) would check in once or twice a day to make sure the empty cashbox was still present, that we’d been faithfully recording all business done and to assure us that 50 cars per day was just around the corner. Tax-free money. We’d all be wealthy at the end of the summer. Didn’t we all feel lucky?
We were doomed and we knew it. Weeks passed. Blue skied, warm weathered weeks. The 50 cars per day never materialized, we’d average two on a busy day. We were lucky to take home 1,500 kr. on Saturday afternoon. I sang along to “Have a nice day”, 25 times too fast, creepy-crawling around the concrete floor. “Doot do doot do doot do doot do doo, have a nice day, have a nice day”, as we waited at the speed of light. School was starting soon. Something had to change.

Next Edition, Enter Da Kitchen.

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