By Elaine Rohse • Columnist • 

We need a car wash just for us

McMinnville has everything I want.

No. No, on second thought, it does not.

What McMinnville needs is a “Gentle Ladies Car Wash Emporium.”

Were I an entrepreneur, I would this day start such a facility in this city.

I long have wished for such a service.

I know, I know. McMinnville already has several car wash facilities, but I question that they can serve my needs.

I am mortified to admit that I, a grown, mature woman, have never taken a car to a car wash.

Then I discovered that I was by no means alone in never having had that experience. Indeed there was considerable need for such.

That fact came to light recently when several of us widowed women were having dinner together. It seemed, to me, a night for confidentialities. I confessed.

“Do you know,” I said, “that I have never taken a car through a car wash?”

For just a second no one responded, as if they were left speechless by my inexperience.

Then, Amanda, whom I regard as sophisticated and urbane, said, “Do you know, I never have either.”

And then Betsy, who is game for about anything, said, as if she were confessing a felony, “I never have, either.”

No one at our table that evening had ever done so. Here we were, a table of gentle ladies, and, in our estimation at least, literate and independent, and yet had never “bearded” a car wash.

What makes my “confession” even worse than theirs is that my automobile is probably the most underprivileged car in Yamhill County. It has never spent a night in a garage — the kind of garage, that is, that comes with a house.

And there are good reasons for this. The first being that I have lots of things that require storage in the garage — boxes of things from moving several years ago, that would look unsightly in the driveway.

Secondly, although I, to date, have no citations listed on my driving record, I am not a precision driver. I’m the kind of driver who drives into a head-in parking space at the supermarket, then has to open my door to see if I am within the yellow stripes. Often I must back out and head in again so as not to take up half the adjacent space.

The second reason that I do not put my car in the garage is because of the width of our car. I look at it — with side mirrors sticking out as if they were sidecars — and then look at the width of our garage door, and I think there is no way I can successfully squeeze that car through the door. To me it looks as difficult as piloting a massive cruise ship through the Panama Canal when there is but three inches of leeway per side. And that cruise ship’s captain has tenders to help him.

Granted, my concern about taking a car though a car wash is all surmise, because I have never done so, but I envision what I would have to do, and it is an unpleasant picture. I understand there are tracks on which one must precisely position the dirty car. My imagination takes over as to what will happen if I miss the track. Would I have to hire a crane to remove my car? Is there a door at the end of the track that I may drive my car through not realizing I am at the end of the track?

Occasionally when my son, who lives out of town, is here, he asks if I would like him to take my car through the car wash. But each time he does, I feel like a ninny. “For heaven’s sakes,” I tell myself, “just get yourself in gear and do it yourself.” But I don’t.

Winter months worsen the problems. As Oregon rain continues, the spaces between car doors and car sides, or at the bottom of the windows, fill with a growth of what appears to be mold. I get out toothbrush and sudsy water to remove it. But I don’t wash the entire car with a toothbrush. Not many people these days seem to wash cars out in the driveways as they once did. Most people go to the car wash.

I wish I could be as undaunted as my widowed friend whose husband also had always taken their car to the car wash. She doesn’t wait until mold appears in its crannies. She takes her automobile to be washed regularly. I much admire her for that.

She says the first time she headed for the car wash she was all atwitter, and that once there she “threw” herself on the attendants, admitting that she had to be “lead by the hand” through the process.

But as a mature senior citizen, I am humiliated at the thought of pulling into a car wash and admitting my frailties and my apprehension about doing something as simple (to some) as taking a car to be washed.

And that is why I feel that McMinnville badly needs such a facility. I dream of reading one day in the News-Register that a Gentle Ladies Car Wash Emporium is opening.

And as I read of this new and modern facility, I picture it as all I ever wanted. As I wheel my car into the Gentle Ladies’ facility, it is crammed with other customers who have arrived before me because they too are so glad to learn of its opening. A smiling white-uniformed attendant rushes to my window.

“Ma’am,” he says, “welcome to the Gentle Ladies Car Washing Emporium. Perhaps you would like to wait in the lobby, if I may but have your keys. And your car very shortly then will be brought to you beautifully clean.”

I gladly hand him my keys, and I am escorted into the lobby, where I am warmly greeted, and asked if I would like coffee, tea or a glass of Yamhill County wine. I opt for tea because it is not yet noon. Shortly, I am served my tea in a China cup. I relax in an overstuffed chair, the latest magazines at my elbow. I sip my tea, flavored with a bit of lemon.

I am proud, proud to have taken this giant step. As I savor my tea, I congratulate myself. I indeed am maturing. I have taken my car to a car wash.

And all this would come true if a Gentle Ladies Car Wash Emporium would just come to McMinnville. Of course, it would be necessary whenever I wanted to have my car washed to again make an appointment, because all those other untrained and fearful women would also be bringing their cars to be washed. And not in the least would I mind the necessity of having to make a reservation.

There I would sit in the lobby, perhaps sipping a glass of wine, if it were afternoon — and never give a thought to the necessity of getting a car on a track or of having to hire a crane, if I didn’t. I would leisurely turn the pages of my AARP magazine, and think that I could indeed congratulate myself. I had come a long way.

And I would not be even the least little bit nervous.

Elaine Rohse can be reached at

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