What is it about washing a car?

What is it about washing a car that makes people want to stare at you?

Saturday morning I was washing my boyfriend’s car by the side of the road. [Edit: He thought of going to the car wash because his parents were visiting, and he didn’t want they to ride in a dirty car. I convinced him to wash it ourselves because it’ll cost less and it’s a form of physical activity.] During the time I was out there, seven people passed by, and five of them stared at me. Not just looked, but stared, as in they turned their heads to keep looking as they moved forward. I don’t believe it had to do with my appearance; I was wearing an old T-shirt and shorts and I wasn’t moving suggestively. This was far from the scene from Cool Hand Luke. The passersby weren’t all men. Even women and children looked stared.

Although I was annoyed at the time, I was more confused. What could possibly be so fascinating about someone washing a car? Do people no longer wash their cars, making it such an unusual sight? Are the people in this town so wealthy that they only go to the carwash instead of doing it themselves? Or did they stop washing their cars after using a hose to wash cars became prohibited in order to conserve water during this drought? I was using a squeegee and bucket, so I wasn’t breaking any rules. Was I doing it the wrong way?

First it was a boy riding a bicycle. Maybe this one doesn’t count since I hadn’t started washing yet. He noticed me approaching with the bucket as my boyfriend parked by the curb. He first looked at me, then kept looking at my boyfriend as he got out of the car. All this time his bike was still moving forward as his head was turned over his shoulder. I was hoping* there would be an obstacle in his path to teach him to not stare at people. There wasn’t. He’ll learn, eventually.

Next, there was a couple walking on the other side of the street. They both looked, but the woman kept looking at me as they walked on. Maybe she was thinking, “Why is she using a squeegee and not a sponge?”

A few minutes later, a little girl came over and stood behind me. I was already annoyed by then so I ignored her until she said, “I’m waiting.” I thought of greeting her with a “Hi” but since I hadn’t slept well and was not in a good mood, I turned around and calmly said, “You’ve never seen someone wash a car?” (Afterward I felt kind of bad for saying that, but I didn’t say it with a sarcastic of a tone of voice.) She appeared interested and commented “Dirty water!” after peering into the bucket. I said, “uh huh” and kept washing.

After that she ran back to her mom and brother who had just left their apartment and said “I’ve never seen someone wash a car!” Really? When I was growing up there were kids her age who helped their parents wash their cars. I was one of them. My guess is that she may be five or six years old. Her brother appeared older, and from what he was saying, it sounded like he had either just finished second grade or will start it next fall.

After they left, there was a man on a bicycle, who appeared rather aimless. He was looking in my direction until my boyfriend returned with a sponge and I told him what had happened. At the same time, two cyclists rode by, but I’m not sure if they looked at us.

My boyfriend’s theory is that people’s eyes are drawn to activity. If that is the case, then people would want to stare at me regardless of whatever I was doing. But I don’t recall ever having that many passersby stare at me. I was determined to put that to the test. After I finished with the car, I decided to hula hoop in the same area. (I usually hoop in the park behind the apartment and few people have stared at me.) I walked back and forth on the sidewalk, while hooping.

Perhaps there isn’t much to stare at when someone is hula hooping because the hoop just goes around and around, but I was walking while waist hooping and I briefly did one trick. I’d like to believe that’s at least somewhat interesting to look at.

Unfortunately, nobody passed by for a really long time! Then came a man in a driving school car. He got out to wait for his client for a few minutes and watched me hoop, but he was waiting, so it wasn’t like he was just passing through. After that, a woman across the street came out to meet someone. She looked at me briefly when she was moving her truck, but she did not stare. Later a male cyclist appeared, but he was paying more attention to any possible traffic. He might have glanced at me, but again, he did not stare. Three is a very small sample size, so it is still inconclusive.

The following week I went out there and hooped again. I walked back and forth on the sidewalk while waist hooping. Of the six people who passed, two stared. I was out with the hula hoop again a few days later. Only two people passed and they didn’t stare. Three cars drove by and I didn’t really look at the people inside, but there was one passenger who obviously stared.

Interestingly, later that day as we were leaving, we saw a couple near the same spot, washing a car. I did not stare at them. A female cyclist was passing, and she stared at them as she rode past. (I count it as a stare because she turned her head to keep looking.) Admittedly, I stared at her staring at them because I turned my head, but I really had to know.

I find this rather confusing and amusing, but I’m not going to lose sleep over it.

Have you ever had passersby stare at you while you were washing a car? Have you ever stared at someone washing a car? What is it about washing a car that makes people want to stare?
* I was only jokingly hoping. I’m really not that mean.


11 thoughts on “What is it about washing a car?

  1. I used to wash my parents’ cars in the driveway and I don’t remember people staring. It’s a busy street so maybe I just didn’t notice. I haven’t washed my car or the Dude’s since we moved here. He took his to the car wash, which I think is a waste of money. My car probably should be washed.

  2. There’s something about hand washing a car… It seems to say “I like my car, I like doing stuff myself, I’ve got lots of free time”. Attractive qualities to some maybe?

  3. I think in this day of drought it is very unusual to see people washing their cars manually. People were probably wondering if it was allowed, if you were following rules about hoses with shutoff valves (maybe wondering what a shutoff valve is), how you were going to rinse the car, how much water you were using, perhaps even how to wash a car with as little water as possible. I wouldn’t worry about it!

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