Some people take Valium before they speak in front of thousands of people or before they board a plane. I like to save my supply for the really anxiety-inducing occasions in my life – like going to the car wash or La Madeleine.
I get my car washed about once a year. Notice I said, “get.” There are other, infrequent times, that I actually wash it myself. But every once in awhile, I feel entitled to give someone else the opportunity to try to scrape the bird poop off my roof.
My anxiety begins at the “Entrance” that is never quite clearly defined. If I make it onto the property unscathed, I am suddenly faced with 5 different choices of lines to head toward. I have been known to make a line decision that gets abruptly waved off by someone who appears to be absolutely appalled that I made such a terrible decision, and how could I not know that was the line I was NOT supposed to pull into?
Then I sit in the line and look at the choices for “packages” on the billboard above, noting that the least expensive package, which was listed online, appears nowhere on the billboard. And does that mean they don’t really offer it, or just that they don’t really advertise it, and do I really want to have this conversation with the guy who writes the code on my car, and where the heck is that guy anyway?
Everyone else has a code on their car except me. As I pull closer to the vacuuming area, I begin to panic. How will anyone know what I want done to my car if I DON”T HAVE A CODE ON MY CAR?
I am waved up to the vacuum and I try to focus on not running the vacuuming guy down because that would make for an embarrassing newspaper headline, while I prepare my speech about the package that I want that isn’t on the billboard and dig in my purse for my black Sharpie so I can write my own code on the window.
I can’t find the Sharpie, and they are telling me to get out of the car.
Code Guy magically appears and asks me what I want.
I mumble, “The Manager’s Special,” which was not the lowest package, but it offers an air freshener, and I figure that’s worth the extra $100.
Then I have to leave. The arrow to the waiting area does not point me to the waiting area, so I wander around stupidly while everyone in the car line watches the poor mentally challenged lady who probably should not be driving a car in the first place. I finally stumble into the building.
From previous experience, I recall that I must pay for my car wash at this point. I am not distracted by the many delightful objects being offered in the car wash “boutique” because I must pay before I can pick up my car. And even though there are at least 30 cars ahead of mine, I am compelled to get in the line of three people because it would be a disaster if my car was done before I finished my transaction.
Then I face the next challenge. If I sit inside, I will be told when my car is finished. Someone will yell out the make and model of my car, and I will march outside and hand over my ticket which I did not lose inside my purse this time.
But there is no room in the waiting area. So, I must sit outside, and then I must watch like a hawk for the special secret hand gesture that will be made when they are finished drying my car.
As usual, I misinterpret the hand gesture and try to Collect my Car Prematurely. They have finished drying my car, but now someone is supposed to inspect my car. And I feel like an idiot once again as I stand there for another 5 minutes because it’s too late for me to go back to the waiting section.
And the $5 bill I am holding in my hand gets all sweaty, especially as I realize that there are 3 people in charge of this last phase of the cleansing of my car, and I only have one $5 bill with which to tip them.
I finally thrust my money upon a surprised young woman who walks past me (it’s possible she wasn’t even an employee), assure the Inspector that my car is perfect, and get into my car to drive off out the Entrance as fast as I can get away from this traumatizing experience.
And then I realize there is no. air freshener. in my car.
My anxiety-inducing questions at La Madeleine are exactly the same – which line do I stand in? (oh, that’s for baked goods only?) what can I order? (you have 3 different menus and you don’t carry the item I’ve been ordering for 6 months any more?) how do I know when my food is done? (well, sometimes we give it to you while you are in line, and sometimes we bring it to your table) who do I tip? and WHY DOES MY CAR STILL SMELL LIKE WET DOG?
To be fair, I don’t really think anyone can answer that last question.