11 March 2009

The politics of car washing


With the insanely dusty weather Kuwait's experienced in recent weeks our neighbor's car-washing habits have intrigued me.

Their car has never left their driveway dirty. Ever. So, let's say there's a drizzle of rain (aka particles of orange mud falling from the sky) around noon, once it stops the driver is out in the driveway with a pail and hose cleaning the car.

Then, say it rains around dusk and he's out again washing the car soon after it stops. Of course all this in addition to the obligatory daily morning carwash ritual.

Over the past two weeks, their cars have been washed over 50 times. (Of course he lets the hose run while he's washing, doing it in the most wasteful way possible, but I don't blame him after all it is somewhat easier. Limited resources, be damned!)


During college, my crippling fear of car washes coupled with a lack of covered parking kept my car's paint job protected by a layer of filth and grime. When I moved back home, I brought with me the belief that clean cars are a frivolous luxury. I was also appalled by the ungodly hour my family's driver woke up at every morning to clean all the cars before he got on with his day; so I asked him not to wash my car every morning unless it's dirty. He happily obliged.

Until one day a coworker asked if I was married. I was single of course and living with my family and wondered why she was asking. She said my car was always dirty (which was not true) and it made her curious to my living situation.

Wanting to share a laugh at lunch, I mentioned this little conversation to my mother. She was offended, "Why isn't he washing your car?" Even though I explained the situation to her, she insisted that my car be clean enough to pose any questions.

A few weeks ago, I pulled into my friend's house to pick her up. She took one look at my car's dust-ridden exterior and shook her head. "We're taking my car," she said as she tilted her head towards her glistening black SUV.

What is it about dirty cars that's so off putting? Is the clean car obsession just another symptom of the rampant materialism, "I have the newest, biggest, baddest, shiniest of all toys?"


Photo source

6 comments:

eshda3wa said...

no
if u wont go out in a dirty shirt
why go out in a dirty car.

their all part of ur image

Glitter said...

I fully agree with eshda3wa..

G.E&B said...

@ eshda3wa-good point, I've never thought about it that way.

Although I do have several shirts so if one of them is dirty I can wear another one easily. I only have one car and cleaning it takes time.

..::Amu::.. said...

I agree with eshda2wa..

hend. said...

I remember when we washed your car after TWO YEARS! and peeled of the sale sticker! good times.

hewhowasexiled said...

Kuwait's a very shallow country and it's denizens amongst the world's most judgmental.

I've always said Kuwait doesn't run on oil but rather rumors and gossiping.

Guys in Kuwait, due to their lack of self-esteem often invest their money in loud and aggressive looking pickup trucks to make up for their lack of masculinity.

Cars have become, quite literally a part of Kuwait's culture.

One is judged in some cases primarily (and dare I say solely) on what car they drive and it's condition.

Hence the obsession with 'looking good' not in your eyes but rather society's eyes.

Look at the commentators right above mine, they compare a dusty looking car with a dirty looking person, an absurd and irrelevant comparison that simply reinforces what I've said.

You would think that people would not forget that Kuwait is a desert and that water is scarcer than oil and should in my opinion be treated on a much higher scale then the remnants of plants and dinosaurs of ancient times past.

I so agree with you on the house staff waking up early in the morning and washing the car, I feel the same pang of guilt when I see them cleaning my car and at the same time infuriated when I see others keeping the hose on or wasting large amounts of water.

9ij it really gets to me, I'm a water freak, I can't stand to see a drop go to waste and I freak out to the point that I watch how much water I let out from my faucet sink.