the circular runner

Why I Need a Swedish Manservant…

In humor, media, observations, writing on December 7, 2011 at 9:01 pm


Car washes.  I live in Cali, which is just a glorified suburb with a few trees, lakes and an ocean thrown in for good measure, so we love our car washes.  Now, this isn’t one of those puppies in which you stick some coins in a machine and then start soaping your car up. This is one of those operations in which you drive into a lot where some guy tries to sell you things like “The Treatment” or the “The Italian Wax Job” or the “Sudsy Fantasy”.  Basically, you could pay 20 bucks for a good wash or go up to like 300 dollars so that some guy can take a toothbrush to the tiny air valves that no one except a certifiable OCD nut-job would notice.  (No offense to you OCD nut-jobs out there. I’m sure you’re lovely, but no one looks at the valves. Really.)

If you didn’t notice it, if you ever go to these car washes, they have a lot in common with nail salons–not that I really know for myself, but I’ve been told. I avoid nail shops for the same reason I should probably avoid car washes: guilt.  Well, in the case of salons, I also have the added incentive that I am completely ashamed of the funkiness that is my feet. But even if I had the feet of a God–I guess mine might look like Hades’ feet or those dudes that are half-goats–I wouldn’t go. There’s something a little too Roman aristocracy about going somewhere and having people bend over your feet or hands. I mean, no one comes out and fans you with a giant ostrich feather or feeds you from a platter of grapes, but it seems like they should.

I say this, though I’m no noble person because this morning, after being just a little troubled by the amount of bird excrement on my poor car, I decide to lighten my load and see my car for all its red beauty by going to a car wash where an army of men and women spend their days shining up other people’s cars. I’m tempted to say this is racism working in society, except that there were black people and what might have been Latino families waiting with me as their rides were being polished by mostly Latinos. (This being San Francisco, there were also Chinese people in the mix.) So, I’m not going to say this is racism. I will say this is classicism, and I will say I’m conflicted and guilty because of it.

I know the arguments:

1. It’s a job.

2.You are giving people work.

3. If I really don’t like it, I should go to the coin-operated washers and do the thing myself.

The last point makes the most sense, but time being scarce, I opted for the guilt this morning.  Again, I’m not judging anyone who goes to car washes (or nail salons). But I am saying that the place kind of sucks. Maybe it’s because my parents were immigrants and poor and they had some hard jobs for a long time. I don’t know. Maybe I need to go clean my car for myself and shut the hell up.

I will say this: as I was pulling out of the car wash today, I was thinking about the near-future when my wife and I will have to hire someone to help out with our kid because we both have to work to live in this city. And thinking this, I think, fuck, we’re going to probably end up hiring some Latina and not pay her as much as she deserves because there’s a going-rate for that kind of service and because my wie and I are poor and can’t do better.  Almost all of our neighbors have Latina nannies, and I’m sure they treat these women well. But there’s this part of me, the same part of me that was looking around at the poor woman shining my tires, and I was like, why can’t I hire some Swedish dude named Lars or Dolph to help out with my kids.  I’m Latino, damnit!  And that’s what I want.  I want some blonde dude to take care of my kid and maybe clean my car.  I have a Volvo, so it fits. I don’t know why, but my fantasy Swede would seem to bring about some justice to this unjust world.

So I’m going to shut up and I’m going to go find me one. There must be a corner where the Swedes hang out and wait for work. Right? There has to be.


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