My Jeep is in serious need of some attention.  And by that, I mean to say that it is at this point nearly camouflaged by the dirt road I take to get into town.  That I have not been mowed over by the driver of a Hummer thinking I am an attractive dirt mound is a miracle.  And still, perhaps there is time.

I have been actively trying to ignore its sad state, thinking that the minute I wash it, the snow storm of the century will swoop over the mountains and bury my efforts at cleanliness beneath piles of snow.  Or worse.  With my luck it’ll just be some pansy ass storm throwing cosmic spittle.

Nevertheless, earlier today I found myself feeling fidgety with the disapproving glances I was getting from the fine citizens of Boulder.  Not that these glances should mean anything to me.  Not two months ago I saw a man standing on the corner of North and Broadway dressed in nothing but an eggplant colored super hero cape and leather hot pants.  And still, I aim to please – something for which I have my mother to blame, no doubt.

Hence, I headed to the car wash.

With the thought of imminent suds, I began to get happy.  Already, I imagined myself within a gleaming capsule which would miraculously be cleaned inside and out at a discounted rate upon purchase of a full tank of gas.

But I was getting ahead of myself.

To which car wash to go?  To whom did I want to donate my dirt?  It occurred to me then that I really didn’t want to go to a normal, run of the mill car wash.  Wasn’t that just throwing money away?  What ever happened to those kids standing on corners with posters advertising a car wash for a donation?  I could clean my car – and give to a charity – at the same time!

The Free Car Wash was the fund raising activity of choice of my church Youth Group in my teen years.  Our leader, whom I’ll call Richard and whose muscle car outshone the sun in brilliance, adored them.  He’d call special planning meetings before the big day, during which we’d be assigned things like hoses, sponges and towels.  At the end of the meeting, we’d have a totally rad prayer huddle where Richard would ask God for help with our fundraising and that our teens would “be a light unto the world” with the way we washed cars.  Also, if He wouldn’t mind directing a couple of Porsches our way, “that’d be cool, too.”

Since I felt that my bubble lettering ability surpassed  that of the average teen, I volunteered for poster duty.  The night before the big event would be spent tongue-out-of-mouth hovering over the marker-strewn kitchen table while I came up with clever slogans – slogans such as “Clean Up Your Life…with Jesus!” and “Honk…if You Love Jesus!.”  We weren’t just there to wash cars and wish people a good day, after all.  Oh, no.  We were there to help spread the good news about Jesus – one harried driver at a time.

The car wash to help raise money for our mission trip to Mexico was by far the most memorable for me.  We had arrived via the church bus to a local Wendy’s with which we had made prior arrangements only to be told by the store manager that she had never heard of us.  No matter.  Since the car wash was part fund raiser and part witnessing opportunity, we knew what to we needed to do.

While Richard was inside arguing with the manager armed with nothing but a single with cheese and a frosty, we proceeded with our plan in order to do a little early advertising.  Determinedly, several amongst us were chosen on the basis of marketability and were dispatched to the two closest street corners.  Since I had made the posters, I went along to supervise.

The response was overwhelming.  There were three of us on my corner.  As cars would pass, we would throw our sign high up in the air, yelling and screaming as loud as we could.  One of the girls I was with could do a wicked human beat box, which she would let loose at any car that happened to have a window rolled down.  With her over-sized T-shirt cinched at the waist with a 5-inch belt and her tremendous wall o’ bangs, she looked like she had walked straight off MTV, and I think several people slowed way down just to check.  As we had the “Clean Up Your Life…with Jesus!” poster, I was pretty pleased with myself for getting quite a few honks for Jesus, even though people were not implicitly instructed to do so.

After about an hour spent in that manner, I left the sign in the other girls’ keep and walked back over to the Wendy’s to see how things were going. Boy, were they going.

When I arrived on the scene, the place was in chaos.  Thanks to our signs, there was a parking lot full of filthy cars and impatient drivers awaiting our attention. As I watched, Richard broke free from the Wendy’s, a thumbs up on one hand, a plastic spoon in the other.  With one deft movement, he ripped off the shirt which had been required for negotiation and proceeded to uncoil the awaiting hoses.  A cheer escaped from the teens still waiting inside the bus in a supernova of teen spirit, beautiful in all of its sweaty, awkward brilliance.

Despite a shaky beginning, it turned into a perfect day.  Or rather, it would have been perfect had a couple of teens not been deemed missing for over an hour after lunchtime only to be discovered Frenching behind the Taco Bell next door.  But otherwise, all went according to plan and we ended up making almost $600 for our efforts.  And while God never did supply those Porsches, He did throw in a fiery red Transam at one point, which nearly unhinged Richard, rendering him completely useless for a full half hour.

I never did make it to a car wash today.  As it is the middle of February, I suppose I should not be too surprised that there were no eager bands of teens out there with sponges and signs.  And even though I have become a rather lax church attendee in my adult years, I would have to say that given the opportunity, I would honk at any bubble-printed sign out there just on the off chance of getting to hear a sampling of that human beat box.  As for the Jeep, well, I’ll clean up my life another day.


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ERIKA RAE is the author of Devangelical, a humor memoir about growing up Evangelical (Emergency Press, December, 2012). She is editor-in-chief at Scree Magazine and nonfiction editor at The Nervous Breakdown. Erika earned her MA in Lit­er­a­ture and Lin­guis­tics from the Uni­ver­sity of Hong Kong and to this day can ask where the bath­room is in Can­tonese, although it is likely that she will not under­stand the answer. In her dream world, she fan­cies her­self a kung fu mas­ter clev­erly dis­guised as a gen­tle moun­tain dweller, eagerly antic­i­pat­ing dan­ger at the bot­tom of every latte. When she is not whipping one of her 3 children and denying them bread with their broth, she runs an ISP with her husband from their home in the Colorado Rockies.

65 responses to “Honk If You Love Jesus”

  1. Did you ever consider that instead of cleaning your jeep, you could just write witty phrases in the dirt to enlighten the lives of whomever is driving behind you? Something like, “Honk… if you love Jesus Pumpkin!”

  2. Judy Prince says:

    “Bubble letter ability”……”cosmic spittle”—-HOOOT!!!!

    Erika Rae, after a long day and ensuing exhaustion, I’ve been revived with giggle-riffs from your story.

    I so definitely want to meet up with a HONK IF YOU LOVE JESUS youth groupy sponge-and-suds-happy folk! My car would love it, too. YES!

    I especially wanna meet up with that guy dressed in nothing but an eggplant colored super hero cape and leather hot pants. Or maybe not. No, not. Definitely not. Guys that dress like that are usually not guys who should be seen by the light of day.

    • Erika Rae says:

      You have no idea how I prided myself on that bubble lettering ability. Every letter, so squishy and round…complete with crease lines where the bubbles fell in on themselves. Oh, to be a youth groupie again.

      And guys like that simply MUST be viewed in the light of day. How else can they be taken seriously???

      *HONK*

      • Judy Prince says:

        You’re right, Erika Rae. His sense of design, style and drama . . . he could’ve earned y’all’s soapy youth group twice the money you got. A sponge in one poised hand, a towel deftly displayed in the other…..King of the Soapies!

        HINK!

  3. Quenby Moone says:

    I love the two missing teens! Traitors, both of them–not just to Jesus but WENDY’S! Evil-doers at TACO BELL!

    I love all your tales of Evangelical weird. I’m pretty sure I’ve met Richard, though perhaps not by that name. Anyone willing to pray for Porsches gets a big thumb’s up in my book. He’s totally got his priorities straight.

    As to your little problem of a dirty jeep, I think you’ve got the right idea. It’s the same reason I don’t make beds. Why make them when you’re just going to mess them up again?

    • Erika Rae says:

      Whatever happened to Frenching, Quenby? Now people “make out”. Quel bourgeois.

      I miss Frenching. I also miss Taco Bell. But Frenching behind Taco Bell??? *fanning self*

      • Quenby Moone says:

        What the hell? Frenching. It takes me right back to fourth grade, which I don’t want to think about too closely…Yep. Fourth grade.

        It reminds me of skinny boys wearing mesh half-shirts with “NAMATH” written across the back and the rather questionable layout of my elementary school playground with lots of places to “French” for those willing to hide behind thorny shrubs.

        Ew.

  4. That was a genius phrase: Clean up your life… with Jesus! Who could resist the idea? You perfectly captured the evangelical fever and the frenching, a natural combo if there ever was one. If only Jesus had arrived in that porsche for Richard!

    My fingers are itching for some scented markers and poster board right now, Quenby…. I wonder what my neighbors would think if I put that sign on my front door.. might liven up a below zero day here in the northeast… at least for the mail carrier.

    • I meant Erika! And typed Quenby because the bean burrito rubber bands Frenching comment was in my head! Need more coffee!!!

    • Erika Rae says:

      Being hot for God and each other always seems to go hand in hand…especially in the teen Youth Group.

      I think the mail carrier would get a kick out of a bubble sign on your door for his or her enjoyment. How about…”Let Jesus *deliver* you!” or “While you’re carrying the mail, let Jesus carry you!”

      I could go on.

  5. Art Edwards says:

    Jesus and cleanliness just go together, don’t they?

    “We’ll clean your car, he’ll clean your soul.”

    Art

  6. Becky Palapala says:

    When I was little, I was terrified of the car wash. The automated kind.

    My parents would take the car through, and I’d be there in the passenger seat (I don’t think booster seats were invented or cared about until at least 1990), wailing and crying and clutching my mom or dad’s arm. Convinced I would drown, I suppose.

    While I am no long afraid of car washes, I can’t help but think this childhood aversion is at least somewhat responsible for the fact that I almost never wash my vehicles.

    I just don’t care. It will rain eventually, and that will make the dirt go away. Though admittedly, in the winter, the salt does a number. But in the winter, it’s too cold to wash them without everything freezing shut, so that’s my excuse.

    This is all just to say, there is no need to feel alone in your ragamuffin-mobile. I am secretly (or not so secretly now, I guess) judgmental and distrustful of people who bathe their cars too often. I’ve decided it’s probably a sign of intellectual idleness and degenerate principles.

    I see someone with a dirty car, I think to myself: There is someone who has better things to do than painstakingly bathe an inanimate object.

    • Matt says:

      I got stuck in one of those car washes a few years ago. I’d just paid the car loan off completely, and decided to splurge and get the $15 Extra Special deal. Lo and behold, the conveyor belt thing busted while I was halfway through. I was stuck in there (without a phone) for almost an hour before someone finally shut it off.

    • Erika Rae says:

      Those car washes are ridiculously terrifying. Have you seen the ones that put a rainbow stripe on your windows? I sit back and wait for the clown face to appear.

      Brrbrbrbr.

      My parents had a similar assessment of people’s houses that were too clean. Clean houses were for people who had nothing better to do. I used to sort of mock this. Now, sitting here in my living room amidst the piles of kid clutter as I clack away on my computer, I find that I am finally coming around to their viewpoint. I can’t clean. I am doing important work. Intellectual work. Wow, what a mess. I must be reeeeeally smart.

  7. Nathaniel Missildine says:

    Jesus in the mirror is much closer than He appears, could be another good one in bubble letters.

    I wish I’d done a car wash like this, we had to harass church members at their homes to get them to pony up for our mission trip. Was yours Son Servants, by any chance? I may have never gotten Frenched if it wasn’t for them.

    As usual, you capture the mood and the mixed feelings nicely. Always a pleasure to read.

    • Erika Rae says:

      I never would have been frenched had it not been for the church youth group, period.

      Ah, yes. Michael Overholt. I was a 7th grader, he was a 9th grader. Back of the church bus on the way to camp. (Not counting 4th grade frenching which took place in front of a jeering, I mean “cheering” crowd at recess. That was Cole Chapel. He wore Michael Jackson zipper jackets and parachute pants.)

      Not familiar with Son Servants. What denomination?

      Jesus in the mirror is much closer than He appears is awesome. Seriously. You could sell that to some megachurch for their signage out front. Right next to “Jesus! A Rainbow of Happiness!” on a Skittles backdrop.

      Yep. Saw that one for real.

  8. J.M. Blaine says:

    Nothing but the Suds

    *HONK*

    honkhonkhonk

  9. Irene Zion says:

    The outside of my car isn’t too bad, Erika, but the inside is knee-high dog hair.
    Vacuuming seems so pointless, since they’re in it all the time, but people come out of the car all furry-assed. I should feel guilty, probably, but I think it’s funny.
    (I do provide one of those sticky roller tape things.)

    • Erika Rae says:

      In Colorado, dog hair is deadly. Not only do we have statically charged dry air, but we all wear fleece. All the time. It sort of gives new meaning to the idea that pets resemble their masters.

      You are so thoughtful with your sticky roller tape thing.

  10. Joe Daly says:

    Erika-

    Funny how a dirty Jeep can bring you back to such a lusty memory! I myself have generally avoided such fund raising efforts, mainly because I don’t want to look like a dirty old (middle-aged) man. Invariably, as you note above, it is the more “marketable” youth group members who are out on the street corner, promoting the wash. Then you see all these creepy dudes driving by to ogle and sometimes chat with the well-meaning sign-toters, some of whom proceed on to get their cars washed. What they do when they get home is their business.

    This to me, is not a whole hell of a lot different than the goofballs who go to Hooters, ostensibly for the great wings, but actually to look at girls in shiny orange shorts. I know there’s a flatbed full of judgment in my thinking, but I’m embarrassed for the Hooters faithful. Similarly, I don’t want to be lumped in with the creepy guys leaning across the street to chat up Christian car wash girls, hoping for a date at the baseball field with a bottle of bourbon and a Lincoln Park mix.

    Maybe next time I’ll just throw a fiver at them as I drive by.

    • Erika Rae says:

      Oh man – I so remember those creepy dudes at the car wash. Our clientele seemed to vacillate btwn them and little old ladies. The dudes gave more money, though, so we tended to play to them on the street. So sad.

      I think it’s funny how you avoid the car washes. Those Christian girls would love to wash your car – of this I am certain. But you’re being a capital fellow in this – not wanting them to fall. Very thoughtful of you. Also thoughtful of you to protect them from Linkin Park. You, my friend, are a saint.

  11. Matt says:

    Ahh….the fundraiser carwash. I remember them so well. Maybe it’s a secular public school southern California thing, but all the ones I ever participated in were pretty much swimsuit parties without the actual pool; everyone would turn up in their bathing suits, there’d be lots of spraying people with the hose and suds fights…good times. Good, good times.

    Though I doubt Jesus (or Richard) would approve.

    • Erika Rae says:

      Richard would definitely not approve. We Christian girls were always game to jump into a swimsuit, though. Thus, we had rigid codes. Sides couldn’t be too high. Backs couldn’t be too low. And *oof* heaven forbid a cleavage. In the car wash situation, T-shirts over suits were encouraged – which was almost worse. Then your dealing with clingy wet t-shirts and poor liners. Way more to the imagination. So much repression, Matt. So much repression.

  12. Oh my goodness, I would have been the wall-of-bangs girl! Not that I could beat-box. I could, however, do a great impersonation of this guy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-2RSu9Gw61U

    • Erika Rae says:

      Cynthia! Were you an Aqua Net girl?

      That smell is burned in my memory. It will be one of the flashbacks I endure on my death bed. Oh God.

      The Energizer man, however, had somehow managed to be completely wiped from my brain before you brought him back thank you very much.

      Why does the word “circus” come to mind when I think of the 80s?

  13. Simon Smithson says:

    One of my greatest dreams as a child was to go through the carwash. I just wanted it, so bad.

    That and a lion. I totally wanted a lion.

    When I bought my first car, the first week, I drove proudly up to the local carwash. The cycle began, and I was so damn happy.

    There was a cha-chunk halfway through, and the whole thing came to a creaking stop.

    I panicked.

    And drove away.

    Also, this:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bEAAVyL0nK4

    • Erika Rae says:

      You wanted to be trapped in a car wash with a lion? What? I am so confused.

      Why not a kangaroo? I think a kangaroo would make a lovely pet. As an Australian, I would think you would recognize this. Please tell me you had a kangaroo, Simon Smithson. At the very least, considered it.

      I feel so proud to have stood in a lion’s den with you.

      Rrrrrrrrow.

      That scene. Oh my stars. I feel permanently damaged.

      “Get in there deeper, boy.”

  14. Reno Romero says:

    erika:

    here in the CA desert there’s this massive carwash with all the fixings to hook your shit. or clean your life. i pass it everyday there’s all these folk scrubbing and vacuuming their ride. hell, you’ve waited this long to clean it you might as well just wait until summer. wait! i take that back. clean the inside. that’s a must. i hate when i get into dirty cars. not that i’ll hop in your jeep but the sight of empty coke cars, del taco wrappers etc, always bugs me. i dig on your stories. i also like that jesus is always looming around someplace. good stuff. okay, now go clean the inside of your jeep. hell, you might find $20 big ones in change.

    • Erika Rae says:

      How many fixings do they have? Because seriously, I possess much shit. Don’t panic – no del taco wrappers. That’s just gross carrying food wrappers around. Of course, really I have no business throwing stones. I carry no less than 3 children around in my Jeep. I will not go into too much detail about what I vacuum off that floor. 20 big *what* – that’s the question.

      Your comment made me laugh.

      It also makes me want to be a better person.

      • Reno Romero says:

        erika:

        oh, that car wash has gobs of junk. solvents. cleaning materials and devices. different types of soap. wax. all that good stuff to one’s car clean and thus their soul. i never paid attention to the cleaning of cars. that was until i worked in a high end detail shop. they taught me the ropes and looking back it was one of the coolest jobs i had. anyhow, good deal on the lack of del taco wrappers. i have a friend that hoards trash and the inside of his car is a fucking trashcan. really. it’s wild. and weird. with 3 babies in tow i’d just take a quick sweep through the jeep and call it a day. i mean it’s gonna get jacked up anyhow. i know these things. at that shop i cleaned many a mini van that was destroyed with coke, candy, food, M&Ms, etc. we would literally blow the shit out of the inside of the car. i’d find pills, dope, rubbers, movie tickets, receipts, pencils and pens, books, etc. ok, i’ve said enough, erika. my answer? blast through the inside (not putting out too much energy) and then run inside your pad and pour yourself a deep glass of wine in celebration for your hard work. the outside? fuggetaboutit. wait until spring, bandini…

  15. David Breithaupt says:

    Keep in mind Erika, Jesus is concerned only with the soul of your car, your internal combustion, its power steering fluid and radiator leeks. Judge ye not a car by its cover. Behold the grimey beggar with his stinky demeanor yet with a heart of gold. Let that be a guide to your car washers.

  16. Gloria says:

    I stick my tongue out when I draw, too! And when I do maths.

    I never did a carwash as a kid, but you do make it sound fun. Bonding, sunshine, Jesus, and suds.

    I’ve always wished I could do the human beatbox thing.

    The Richard Muscle Car joke cracked me the hell up.

    • Erika Rae says:

      Richard drove around in what he perceived to be one bad-ass Hyundai. It was inspiring, really.

      I have spent years trying to beat-box. Just the other day I threw out some mad stylings as I was cooking dinner. My husband sort of looked at me. We never spoke of it.

  17. I went to high school with about fourteen Richards. One of them was elected class president. One discovered bongs and dropped bible. Two decided they wanted to French each other and later founded a LGBT support group. Three joined the Army. Four started a band called Leviticus Tattoo and played the local church events. Another shot his ex-girlfriend and then himself, no note. One worked at a deli and smiled too much. One is now a famous actor.

    I’ve always wanted to clean up my life with Jesus. And I suspect that Jesus has long been aching to get a crack at my dirt.

  18. Uche Ogbuji says:

    Question 1: is the cosmic spittle storm anything like cosmic slop? Cause it would be wicked to get your car funked up by the mothership.

    Question 2: Did ya say people in Boulder are giving you looks? Really? I seen a guy driving the beetle around town. No I didn’t say A beetle. I said THE beetle. As in the first one that rolled off the Wolfsburg assembly plant line back in 1958. Oh yeah and it had a flower taped on one of its rust pimples.

    Question 3: Did anyone pull over upon reading the “Clean Up Your Life…with Jesus!” poster and say “Oh snap! You got illegal alien domestic workers in your crew? I’ve got a few rooms that could use good tax free scrub-down…”

  19. Loved this, Erika!

    I just have to say that David and I once owned a car we didn’t wash for 11 years. Which was the entire time we owned it. Its filth was epic. Odes could be written to the dirt of that car.

    See? I’m really, really smart and doing Very Important things.

    Like catching botulism from my car . . .

  20. “Since I felt that my bubble lettering ability surpassed that of the average teen” cracked me up. Oh, how I remember the bubble letters. You are always so funny. (:

    I’m glad you didn’t give in to the pressure and wash your Jeep. Keep fighting the good fight, Erika!

  21. Erika Rae says:

    I walked under a tree once and encountered a really weird mist. Upon closer examination, it was coming from a dense colony of cicadas which had taken up residence in the tree. It was like fine goo. I think I finished up the walk with arms and legs spread. So gross. Serious cosmic slop.

    You funny, Uche.

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