Not so long ago I took my car for a Gold Valet at a national car-wash chain. Usually I don’t go anywhere near car-washes or anything car-wash related. Whilst I’m not the kind of nutter who imagines that the giant foam brushes will crash through my windscreen or make me feel like I’m in a coffin, oh no no no, I’m still nervous of all those instructions about engaging certain gears, and stopping when certain lights flash, and how, if you’re not following the instructions, you might be KILLED or MAIMED in an unimaginably freakish way. But a valet sounds manageable. Even nice! I went as far as hoping it would mark the start of brand-new more organised me.
You see, I didn’t notice the small print, the invisible print, the print that should have been there:
Do not bring your car for a valet here unless you like ritual humiliation.
Do not bring your car for a valet here unless you like having shame heaped upon you.
Definitely do not bring your car for a valet here IF criticism triggers inexplicable feelings of rage and frustration, and/or can tip you over The Edge, into an abyss of despair and depression. Motherfucker.
All I saw was a cheerful blue and yellow sign that said something like:
BRING YOUR CAR FOR A VALET HERE
I had a bad feeling as soon as I arrived to pick up the car, which was sitting in the middle of an empty, creepy parking lot, in a pool of dark waters. The doors were thrown open and there were weird drying machines everywhere, making the chassis creak and rock. Suddenly, a woman emerged from the car’s interior, like Jack Nicholson sticking his face through the door in ‘The Shining’, her face damp, her eye make-up everywhere, tufts of hair sticking out at deranged angles from her head.
“Still damp luv. Shoulda told me about it shouldn’t ya?” she said.
“What d’you mean?” I said.
“Back seat luv. Covered in vomit. Took ages scrubbing it.”
“It’s Frubes” I said. “I don’t think it’s vomit. It’s definitely Frubes.”
“Nope. Definitely vomit luv. Loads of it. Behind the kids seat too. Took me ages. I’ll leave the blowers on another ten minutes, it’s still damp. Never seen nothing like it.”
Now I’ll be honest. My car has seen some things. (Although not Dogging. Definitely not Dogging.) A few years ago, after the birth of my son, I didn’t drive for a couple of weeks. When I finally opened the car door, the upholstery seemed to twitch and swell and change colour; a black cloud rose from everywhere at the same time. For a moment, I had no idea what I was looking at. Then I realised. The cloud was an infestation of fruit flies - thousands – all coming at me through the open door, with everyone on the street, staring. But only once has there been an episode of vomiting. Once ever, I’m telling you. And I cleaned it up thoroughly.
Even if there had been vomit, surely it wasn’t the valet’s job to inform me? (Imagine going for a colonic irrigation, and then, halfway through the procedure, the practitioner freaking out like a proper mentalist and yelling about there being shit everywhere.) If nothing else, dear valet, think of my poor mother. If everyone else goes around undermining the fuck out of me, what’s there left for her to do?
As it happens, my car is once again in need of a good valet. There’s a lollipop fused to the dashboard; it smells like Satan’s lair. But this time, I’m waiting for one of the kids to throw up. Or better still, all of us.
Then I’m taking it.