The end of an era for hot-wax worship

To most, it is just another boardedup, gated-up, locked-up corner gas station counting the days before an uninspired stack of condos piles on. To me and self-serving folk of my ilk, it is the end of an era, the erasure of a Sunday morning routine that was all about good, clean fun. And the problem is there’s just not another place of hot-wax worship like it around.

Nope, it seems the self-serve car wash — the kind with a bay you drive into, park, and go at it with high-pressure wands and brushes — is as rare these days as Tourism Vancouver officials returning calls from members of the British media. And getting rarer.

High property prices and a penchant gas companies have for automated car washes over self-serve ones (read: more profit) mean many longstanding Metro Vancouver self-serve car washes are being torn down and not replaced.

Who cares, you say.

Just go to a touchless car wash, where you sit in a steamy tunnel like a dirty spoon in a dishwasher and let the machines do all the work. Or how about one of those new ‘waterless’ car washes, the so-called green solution to getting the grime off your car? Better yet, go to a “detailer” who will give your car a thorough going over, inside and out. Make it look like brand new. And, of course, there’s always the retro way: in the driveway with a garden hose and plastic popcorn bucket full of hot, soapy water.

Sorry, tried them all and always come back to my self-serving ways.

For just four dollars at a self-serve bay you get more than enough time to power wash, scrub and wax your car. Kick in another toonie and get those floor mats looking showroom new. Then it’s out of the bay and into the parking lot for a good dry off with a chamois and most likely friendly chatter with another self-serve acolyte.

Unlike a touchless or waterless wash, I’m never disappointed with the selfserve wash, as I’m the one doing it. No missed low fenders. No soap scum in the headlight wells. No streaked windows.

As far as a detailer or classic car wash (think the 1976 movie Car Wash) goes, they’re great if you can afford them, but even then there’s always something that isn’t done right.

And the DIY tradition of soapin’ ‘er up in the driveway? Always leaves a mess and uses far more water than is necessary.

Granted, there’s always a chance a water fight might break out, but now that the kids are faster than me I don’t see the fun in it.

I also like the rituals of the self-serve car wash. Eyeing up the right line to get in. Vacuuming out the car when waiting my turn. Punching in the five-digit code to bring the water beast to life. Switching over to soap and the brush, then back to the rinse wand. And all while under the clock. Done right, it is nothing short of a cleansing ballet, with car owners dancing around their cars on the balls of their feet and getting up on tiptoes to scrub every part of the roof. Finally, there’s the satisfaction of pulling out of the station in a sparkling clean car, all for just a few bucks and minutes of your time on a Sunday morning.

And now?

There’s always church.

Photograph by: Justin Sullivan, Getty Images