01 Dec Car Wash
We have two car washes in our little town. One has a couple of wash-it-yourself bays as well as a side where you stay in your car as it is processed through the suds and foam. The other is a full service operation where you step out of the vehicle and employees vacuum the interior before it is pulled along the automated wash and then a whole other crew cleans the windows and buffs and dries it on the other end.
Not too long ago, I realized that our car was due for the more extensive service. There was the grime from rainy streets, of course, but also my wife Ariel and I had partaken of late night snacks of sunflower and pumpkin seeds on the way home from some of our Monday Night seminars and the floor mats looked as if we had been invaded by a pack of messy squirrels. So one bright, sunny morning, while running errands, I stopped to get it cleaned.
As I pulled around the building to order from the service menu, I was surprised to see that I had pulled up behind a State Trooper, his distinctive cruiser festooned with a red and blue light bar. My pale green Prius appeared to be a lightweight distant cousin as it stood behind it. After I placed my order, I received a receipt, which I took into the building to the cashier for payment. Since it was a beautiful day, I then stepped outside to wait. The trooper was there, too, talking on his cellphone.
I had plenty of time to observe him without his noticing. He was about my height, 5’8 with short-cropped dark brown hair. He looked to be in his mid-30s and although we were approximately the same build, he was clearly weighted down. Bulletproof vest, belt with handcuffs, pepper spray and gun, sturdy boots – the extra load must have been at least 20 pounds, a lot of extra weight to be carrying through life each day.
“OK Hon, love you,” he said, as he concluded his call. Slipping his phone in his pocket he turned and I caught sight of a surprising weariness on his face. I realized that the equipment was not the only heavy load that he was carrying. Perhaps it was something happening at home. Perhaps it was the vestiges of dealing with his day-to-day duties: break-ins, accidents, traffic stops, domestic violence, crime in all its forms. Perhaps it was the fact that in general many people are unhappy to see him as he stops them on the road, lights flashing. In that moment I recognized that his must be oft times a thankless job.
Stepping up next to him as we watched the men with towels deftly buff our cars I said, “Officer, thank you for all you do to keep us and our communities safe. Thank you for your service.” I had a fleeting thought to tell him to be safe, but I simply concluded with, “Hope you have a nice day.”
“You’re welcome. Have a nice day, too,” he replied as he donned his hat and stepped forward to his shiny car.
As he climbed into his driver’s seat and went about his day, it seemed to me that perhaps his load was a bit lighter and that his car was not the only thing to have been shined and cleaned. And as I stepped into my Prius, I also was feeling lighter for having recognized another human being who works on my behalf, even though we had never been formally introduced and with any luck, we would not have any need for personal interactions in the future.