Going Old School on My Car

I stood there, wondering if I would get dirty looks from my neighbors. Maybe someone walking by would yell at me to stop. Somebody might even call it in.

At least I was wearing my workout suit, not the two-piece “lay out on the beach” number that shows more skin.

Nervously, I picked up the sponge and began to wash my car.

Ye Olden Days of Car Washing

Bucket with suds, sponge, and hose.

Were you around when washing the family car was an accepted method of sunbathing and socializing? I remember putting on my skimpy “fashion” suit before oiling up and heading out in the afternoon sun to clean the family car. There was an element of exhibitionism; maybe somebody, preferably of the cute male variety, would spot me and stop by “to help.”

Later, when the kids were little, everybody “helped” Daddy wash our gigantic Suburban. That really meant small people played in the sudsy bucket and sprayed each other with the hose outside while I attempted to do something uninterrupted inside.

A drought changed all that.

Conserving through Restricting

Austin plunged into drought conditions in 2011 and, as Lake Travis’ water level sank ever lower and lower, water usage restrictions were enacted to conserve dwindling reservoirs. We made sure to follow the City of Austin’s Stage 2 guidelines and invested in new technology–a rain water collection system, drip irrigation, and xeriscaping, as well as water-efficient appliances.

Massive rainfalls during 2016 resulted in full lakes and lush landscapes even throughout summer’s searing heat (which wasn’t actually all that searing this year). In May, the City Council moved Austin from Stage 2 of the five-level watering guidelines to Conservation mode, where we’ll stay ad infinitum, no matter how full the lakes and wet the season.

I’m all for keeping usage low. It makes sense–why would we ever waste precious water again?

This beautiful video was shot in March 2016, when Lake Travis and Lake Buchanan were approximately 95 percent full:

DIY Detailing

Fiat 500 with bucket full of suds, sponge, and hose near front wheel.

That history of water conservation, though, is why I felt guilty about grabbing a bucket and suiting up to clean pollen and cedar elm residue from my sweet Fiat. I had to do something–even by my standards, the grime was embarrassing. As I drove home from workout, I wondered when I’d find time to go to the car wash. And then I thought, “Why not do it myself?”

Sure, it’s perfectly okay now to wash a car in the driveway with a bucket but it’s been a long time since I’ve seen anyone do it. During the drought, we were all conditioned to patronize allowed car washes and cleaning businesses. I hadn’t been quite sure about the current restrictions until I looked them up online, so I was apprehensive that others would think my car washing untoward.

My fears were unfounded.

Nobody yelled; there was nary a comment. Not a single soul even gave a second look.

My car is so tiny I can reach across its hood; I need no step stool to sponge the roof. The sunshine felt great; outside time in the middle of the day was a sweet treat. I scrubbed all those little places–around the gas cap, in the pockets under the wipers–that no-one else has ever cared to clean.

In less than an hour, little Bella was sparkling and I’d had outdoor fun in the process.

I see more car washing in my future.

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Published by Leah Nyfeler

I'm a writer, editor, runner, and adventurer who is always looking for the next new story, exciting adventure, and good meal/book/movie. My focus is on helping people find their best, healthiest self through sharing what I know and how I've come to learn it. In addition to my blog "Enjoying the Journey: Observations on the Fit Life" at www.leahruns100.com, my articles have appeared in a variety of print and online magazines. You can hear me as part of the 2015 Austin cast of Listen To Your Mother.

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