At the Car Wash

I thought I had stayed relatively British during my 15 year stint in Los Angeles. I Iost count of the number of times people commented that I hadn’t lost my English accent, I insisted on packing my bags at the supermarket and I still had a roast dinner, complete with Yorkshire puds on a Sunday. But on my return to the UK it became apparent that I had become a little ‘LA’ when living there.

I’m pretty sure the smartly dressed man outside the National Trust property didn’t appreciate me tossing my car keys at him when I mistook him for a valet and I’m convinced the owners of the local petrol station think I’m a complete idiot.

So much so I’m too embarrassed to go back there.

I’m used to driving a big car…but on big roads. I had a couple of prangs in Los Angeles but I still blame the fact I honestly couldn’t see over the steering wheel.

But for the majority of the time I could navigate the five lanes of heavy traffic on the 101 freeway – it just turns out I can’t navigate my way around a village petrol station – specifically I can’t drive my way through a car wash.

I was so excited about taking the kids through one – yeah, I know I said I was going to find fun and trendy things to do in the countryside, but I was having one of those days. Automatic car washes are far and few between in LA – mainly because when you valet your car you get the option for it to be washed too – so I figured it would be fun.

The problem was it had been a LONG time since I’d used one. I sat in the car and actually googled “how to go through a car wash”. Then to make doubly sure I did it right I went into the petrol station shop and spoke to the lady behind the counter.

I carefully explained – much to her amusement – that I was basically a foreigner and because I’d lived outside of the country for 15-years I wasn’t 100% sure on how to use a car wash.  It was my kid’s first time and I didn’t want to mess it up.

She kindly gave me instructions that basically amounted to “line your car up, turn off the engine and the machine will do the rest”.

I still managed to mess it up.

Five minutes later I was stuck inside a dark car wash, with a pair of petrified children. I couldn’t get out because my door was wedged up against the oversized brush I’d somehow managed to get way too close to and I had to make my exit via the passenger door. Sheepishly and covered in soap suds –  with the kids still screaming blue murder inside the car I might add – I had to go and explain myself to the woman.

She took one look outside the window, looked back at me and called her daughter in to take a look at what I’d done. “Look, look” she said pointing her finger at the disaster zone outside. “We haven’t had anyone mess up this badly in years!”

Oh how they laughed!

She then picked up the phone to call her husband!

“Why not call your mum too while you’re at it,” I said, because by this point I was not only red-faced but also painfully aware my children were still stuck out there.

Turns out she was only calling her mechanic hubby to come and help. I then had to stand there as they marvelled, along with a few rubberneckers, at “how the hell I’d managed that.”

After a lot of manoeuvring, tutting and shocked shaking of his head he broke my vehicle free of the brush that had got caught underneath the wheel arch of the front wheel.

I thanked him very, very, very much and went to jump into the car to make a speedy and shameful getaway, when they asked; “Don’t you want another go? Your car is only half clean.”

At first I was convinced they were only asking so they could catch another failed attempt on camera and flog it to ‘You’ve Been Framed’ for £250.  But then the husband thwarted his wife’s plans by leaping into the driver’s seat of my car and positively INSISTING he drive my car and crying kids through the car wash.

Had this been in LA they would have probably forced me to pay for someone to come and fix the car wash and then sued me for damages. In the countryside however, they not only gave me my second £3.50 wash for free, but they also threw in two chocolate bars for the kids.

Lucky for me the English rain has kept me from having to go back and show my face, and terrible driving skills, any time soon! I knew there was a reason to love this weather.

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