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My Dirty Little Car

by Tao Oliveto, Asheville, NC

I was visiting a friend this past weekend, who lives in a city in the mountains of NC. He rents a house in a funky little neighborhood in the west end of town. It was a nice visit – hiking and talking and eating a lot of fresh and raw foods from local farms (more on that later). There was one thing that left me on edge upon leaving – the self-service car wash behind his house that was being used almost 24 hours/day! You could hear the sprayers at all hours and the beeping timers and fluorescent lights meant he had to keep his bedroom windows closed up to get some sleep. I was shocked and irritated for many reasons.

I guess I’ve lived in denial of sorts – or maybe in a cave. I didn’t realize auto-washing was still such a frequent National pass-time (and I certainly didn’t know it could or would continue to such a degree during a severe drought!?!) Is washing a car really a priority for water use? Minnesotans like to say that salt and chemicals from Winter roads need to be washed off occasionally to prevent rusting (though I rarely complied and my car did fine), but beyond that, isn’t a car for dirty activities, like – um, driving?

Although I remember washing my parents cars with a bucket and hose, I soon learned where all that wasted water and phosphate-laden soap ended up after running down the curb and into the storm drain – straight to the lakes and rivers. I also figured out soon enough that using professional self-service car washes can save water and keep soaps contained, so if you gotta do it….

Still, I never thought much about washing the 3 cars I’ve owned since I finished college (pay attention – college students don’t need cars!) and they each came to be known, affectionately, as “my dirty little car”. Oh, I like to keep the inside tidy since I actually have to sit there periodically, but the outside? My attitude has always been – if I can see out the windows, my car is clean enough. Thanks to my Dad’s fatherly advice, I also give the engine attention by having regular oil and filter changes, rotating my tires and stuff like that. If I have to use one (and I’m always working out ways to do that less), I believe in being safe and smart. But, wash it? Pleazzze, it’s a car!

My Prius has yet to be washed in almost 4 years. And here’s the parking lot at my co-housing community – lots of dirty little cars. Maybe we’ll figure it out one day – our fresh water supply is only for cooking, washing clothes and drinking. And material possessions – even cars – are not the treasures of life. Until then, I’ll stick with my denial – sometimes ignorance can be bliss.

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2 Responses to “My Dirty Little Car”

  1. Sami Grover Says:

    Car washes can save water!!?? I was surprised at that one. Any more links on this other than the one above T? I’d love to check it out more…

    Fully agreed though, washing your car often feels like an exercise in futility. It never stays clean for long.

  2. The Tao of Change » Blog Archive » Support LOCAL LABOR, LOCAL LIVES Says:

    […] elbow grease. I know, I’m the girl who thinks the need for clean cars is simply part of our American pathology, but this time, I just had to talk to Big […]

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