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Washed and cleaned out

By TONY NGARE | March 2nd 2014
Car washing business on the rise (Photo:Courtesy)


Going by the number of vehicles on our roads, there are some categories of service in the motor industry that are doing roaring business. One of them must be the car washing business.

Just like there are parking boys at the car park, and beach boys for those moneyed and randy European sugar mummies, all providing vital services, there are car wash boys for motorists. Hate them or like them, you simply cannot do without them.

Though we call them boys, I would like to take the earliest opportunity to point out that this term is largely used loosely. Car wash boys vary in age from the 16-year-old boy playing truant at school, to the energetic septuagenarian still waiting to strike it rich in the city.

While there are a few good men in this car washing industry, many of them are secondary pickpockets. Why do I call them ‘secondary’? Either they are such cowards that they cannot bring themselves to pick someone’s wallet, or their pick pocketing skills are, simply put, pretty poor. So, under the guise of washing your car, they simply ‘clean off’ any valuables that could go unnoticed.

A fortnight ago, my pal, Florence, took her beloved car to the car wash. She tells me that ‘they’ usually have a double date: The car ‘takes’ her to the salon, and in return, she takes ‘her’ for some serious grooming at the car wash. Just like Florence only has her hair done by a specific hairdresser, she has nominated a specific guy who washes her ‘baby gal’.

 However, as fate would have it on this specific day, the man who washes her car had travelled upcountry for a matanga. She toyed with the idea of bringing it another day, but realised that with a busy week ahead, it would take some time before she could get another opportunity to have the car washed. So she decided to have the job done by whoever was available.

The cleaning was unimpressive. It could have been because of the waiting Florence had endured, or perhaps the new guy was not as keen as her favourite ‘car groom’. She was disappointed, but with darkness looming, she wanted to make a quick exit despite the car wash supervisor offering to see to the car personally.

She was wondering whether the effort of the car wash guy was worth paying for when he approached her and solicited a tip. My friend hit the roof and told him off!

Three days later, Florence realised that one of her gold chains, together with matching anklets, was missing. She could not immediately tell when she had worn the items last, but after several hours of mulling over the matter, she remembered visiting Nairobi’s downtown area. She had had the presence of mind to remove the precious jewellery and keep it somewhere safe; a secret compartment in her car. But there are no secret compartments when it comes to a car wash.

So she retraced her footsteps and headed to the car wash to inquire about her missing items. The man who had washed her car flatly denied seeing any jewellery. He went as far as of accusing her of questioning his integrity.

Confused and not knowing what to do next, Florence threatened to go to the police. In her anger, she divulged that one of the senior officials at Central Police Station was her uncle.

This had no effect on the management of the car wash. They coolly pointed to a large poster: ‘Vehicles are parked and washed at the owners’ risk’.

Since then, she has been wondering whether one should hang around the car as it is washed, darting this way and that to avoid the water jets, or simply invest in some overalls and gumboots and do it at home. Yours truly, too, is at a loss.

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