child's art on my dirty black car

yes, on the mirrors, too

I

met a woman who worked for a car dealership. One of the benefits of her job was that she never had to buy her own car. Instead, she just drove one of the cars for sale off the lot home every day. She mixed it up, she told me—different makes and models, different colors—but the accumulation of a decade’s worth of free, endlessly rotating vehicles?

Don’t get a black car. They get dirty.

It was an interesting enough conversation at the time but when we finally found a vehicle to replace our van and it turned out to be black, I didn’t remember a word of it. Transported as I was at the idea of owning something with a transmission not in imminent danger of falling out onto the street while I was driving, the last thing on my mind was whether or not I was up to the task of cleaning it.

That was five months ago. Now, as the dust accumulates in layers on the surface of this car—followed in short order by the geometric shapes and smiley faces my children trace into that grime—I have say that I’m not sure my lifestyle is compatible with black car ownership. I’m thinking a lot about car washes, like, more than I ever have in my life. Maybe more than is normal.

I slow down near the ones thrown up by local high schools but I never actually stop because I don’t have any cash on me. I surreptitiously watch my people on my block haul out their hoses and buckets to give their cars the once-over and think, ‘What’s that like?’ And just a few weeks back, I actually gave my friend money for her son’s Boy Scout fundraiser in return for a coupon good for a discounted trip to the Octopus Car Wash. (Which, it turns out, is a huge tourist attraction in Albuquerque because of Breaking Bad but is a destination for me because they’ll clean my dirty black car.)

Fantastic news: it rained today and you can hardly see the smiley faces anymore. I’m so relieved. Now I can hold onto that car wash coupon for awhile longer.