Whether it was going to the nurse every afternoon in kindergarten so I could go home and be with my family, or suffering a meltdown in the aisles of the Osceola Public Library because my mom would limit me to only FIVE books to check out at a time—And how in the world was I supposed to choose from all of them??—so I ended up at home with none, or resorting to biting my own arm because it would take my focus off something stressful, Anxiety has been a constant since I can remember. I didn’t, however, recognize that it WAS Anxiety until I was an adult—married with a couple kids—and realizing that the way I felt was not normal and not conducive to a healthy relationship with anyone. Including myself.
So with time (along with therapy and some helpful prescription drugs), I was able to break up with Anxiety. (“It’s not you, Anxiety, it’s me.”) At least for a while. But just like an ex who can’t let go, Anxiety keeps showing back up, wearing a trench coat and a boom box perched on its shoulder blasting Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes.”
I’ve allowed Anxiety to hang around again lately, probably precipitated by the fact that I have a senior and am worrying about him leaving, college and how the heck we’re going to pay for it all. But with all I have going on right now and all I could be worrying about, where does Anxiety seem to harass me the most?
At the car wash.
You may be thinking, “How could anyone be anxious about the car wash?” And I will answer with a hearty, “Good question!” But I am, and it’s officially gone from bad to worse. After last week, I have actually vowed that I will never enter another car wash again. And I mean it.
Allow me to share my humiliation with you.
It was a week ago, on a Friday, and my car really needed washed. Not only was it dusty, but birds had used it as their personal toilet, and I knew it was time. So I took a deep breath and pulled into my local car wash.
As I swiped my debit card and marked the $7 Silver Wash, I had to take a deep breath and tell myself that my fears of driving into a car wash were silly and completely unfounded. I got the green light and proceeded ahead.
And that’s where it all went wrong.
I slowly crept ahead, letting the jets of soapy water blast the undercarriage, until I knew I was getting close to that place where my wheel is supposed to fit nicely into that little place, making the red light come on and the carwash continue. (Sorry if that was too technical for you.) But my wheel did not fit nicely into that little place. Instead, I felt the wheel falling off the edge of the little place and the car went kind of kattywompus on me.
Shit. Somehow I didn’t get my wheel in the right spot. Awesome. What the heck do I do now? I thought.
So I backed up a little, put it back into drive, moving the wheel over a little left so I could get it in the little place. And slooooowly drove forward.
Missed again. Seriously? How hard can it be???
At this point I’m not only feeling anxious about not being able to get this car wash going, I’m also feeling claustrophobic because the garage door is still shut in front of me, so my only way out is to back out quite a ways, without being able to see anyone else who might be pulling in at the same time.
So I backed up again, and this time I put the car in park and got out, left my car in the stall and walked outside to look for an attendant or just anyone who would pull in my car correctly for me. I had no pride left. I planned to just say, “I suck. Will you please drive my car through the car wash for me?” But no one was to be found, so I was forced to join my car again, alone, in the stall.
At this point I was nearing a full-blown panic attack. I was shaking and my heart was pounding out of my chest. But I did a few Lamaze breaths and tried to pump myself up by yelling at myself, “Seriously, idiots can do this! Complete idiots can pull their car into a car wash correctly. You have a college degree and were class valedictorian. Really, Paula, really? Come on, do this.”
So I eyed where my wheel was and where it had to go, and I swear it looked like that wheel should just go straight into that little place. All I had to do is pull straight ahead. Like a foot and a half. I couldn’t miss.
I am not exaggerating when I say that I pulled back and pulled forward 10 times. By this time I had completely broken into a sweat and was swearing like a sailor. Loudly.
Until finally I felt my car jerk forward a little, like it’s supposed to, and then come to a halt.
Or so I thought…
Apparently sometime during my pull back-pull forward show, the garage door had opened and I hadn’t even noticed.
The car wash had timed out.
It was like “Buh-bye” as it gave me the green light to proceed out of the stall. But instead of emerging all wet and shiny and clean, I did the drive of shame out of the car wash, my car now looking WORSE than it did before because it was covered not only in dust and bird poop, but the bottom half of my car now wore dirty soapsuds as well.
Aaaaaand it cost me $7.
I comforted myself in the fact that no one else was exiting the car wash at the same time, so hopefully no one noticed that I emerged dirtier than I entered. But leave it to my husband to burst my bubble. When I relayed what had transpired, he said, “I’m sure they have it on camera.”
I’m just waiting for it to show up on YouTube with the caption, “Woman vs. Car Wash: Car Wash wins!”
Well played, Anxiety, well played. Until we meet again. Which I’m sure won’t be long.