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.


Last time I did this very, very irregular car column, I griped about drivers. This time, I’m going to reveal what your car says about you — that is, if you own one of the 20 cars listed here. But since LA is not like the rest of the country when it comes to cars (after all, this is the place where only three colors exist (white, black, gray)), I commented twice. If you can’t find your beater on the list, feel free to add your own car to the list. And hey, these evaluations are meant for new-car buyers (all but the last one).