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?"