Tag Archives: car

Those people…..

by Ellen Weeren

I just read this post by Seth Godin about “those people”. window washer car wash

If you aren’t familiar with the name, Seth is a guru of sorts on everything “thinking”. And that’s just what his posts do – they encourage you to think about things. And the posts are generally short, so they don’t hurt your brain too much. 😉

Seth’s latest post reminded me of a man I saw at the car wash the other day – in fact, that man has been on my mind a lot lately. I had thought about writing about him – but never took the time to do it.

Seth’s post reminded me that I should give this man his due.

A few weeks ago, I had my kids take all of their stuff out of the minivan so that I could drive it over to the car wash and pay $50 to have it cleaned, vacuumed, and spit shined.

And, please don’t even ask – of course, they were bothered by having to remove all of their c.r.a.p. so that I could pay someone else to clean up their mess.

Their shoes, their trash, and their basketballs (oh how I hate those basketballs clanking around in my car) … and I couldn’t reach the van-cleaning fairy … so they actually had to get off their arses and get their stuff out of the car so that I could spend an hour watching someone clean it for them.  And yes, I might have yelled out something just like that right before they leaped into action.



Okay, I did.

Anywash, I got to the car wash and paid for the super clean option because that’s exactly what it needed – a super cleaning.

This option takes a while so I brought a book with me. I sat on a bench in the warmth of the sun with a cold Diet Dr. Pepper and read while my car was being cleaned. (And no, the irony is not lost on me here. I get it.)

One of the washers caught my attention and I lost all interest in the words in front of me.

He was absolutely fascinating. He cleaned my car with all the pride of ownership. As if he had saved for months for just that very car. Like it was a special car. He was even smiling while cleaning up someone else’s mess.

He’d polish a spot, lean back, and clean it again.

The window, that would have taken me all of a minute and a half, consumed a good eight minutes of his focused attention. This was not a “oh, if I take longer, I’ll have to do less” situation. It was very clearly a “this is my job and I’m going to be the very best at it I can be” situation.

He’d clean the back area of the car and then close the hatch. But, then he’d open the hatch again and double check – just to make sure everything was clean.

It seemed like he did this for every crevice he came across.

I’m sure I was sitting there like a fool with my mouth agape.

My doctor probably isn’t even that precise.

Now, I haven’t applied for a job at a car wash lately – but this guy can’t make more than say $12 an hour.

And it struck me how unfair this all really is. My kids were sitting at home on their arses with a litany of opportunities waiting before them (many that they can’t be bothered with) and this guy is busting his arse with probably not that many options.

To be fair to my kids, they do work hard too.

But not the way this guy does. They don’t have that kind of pride in the mundane things they do – heck, they don’t do too many mundane things.

I’m not really sure how all of this will change but imagine what that guy could accomplish with more responsibility and more opportunities.

It’s heart-breaking that he might not have the chance to do anything more than clean a window.

A kick in the rear……..

Yesterday was a big fat homesick day and I wallowed in it. For a while – then I literally got a kick in the rear – or a bump in the bumper – and was reminded of why being here is such a good adventure for my family.

I was riding to school on a busy road when the driver behind us hit the back of our car. It was a jolt, but I knew right away it was nothing serious. I was on my way to a meeting with the elementary school principal and I did not want to be late. So, it wasn’t the best thing that could happen on the way to school. However, it was not – by a long shot – the worst thing either.

And in India, fender benders are handled so differently. Most of the time neither driver even stops. A car is just a car. Nothing to get too upset about. (It is interesting to note that there really aren’t many super nice cars on the road here – it is kind of a waste of money because it would be nearly impossible to keep them in mint condition.) The challenge for me will be to embrace this more patient, uneffected mode of living – while still teaching my children to value the blessings we have – not to take them for granted. A car is certainly not disposable so we do need to take care of it – but ultimately it is just a car. A little dent here and there gives it character and a history of the places we have been.

In the U.S., a car accident of any magnitude would involve a lot of time, a lot of paperwork, time in the repair shop – frustration. Here a bump is simply a bump. You can move quickly on from it.

Dueling Drivers……….

I know many of you roll your eyes when I talk about my “staff” woes. I completely realize that it really is hard to understand how “un”helpful help can be. You lose a lot of your independence and that’s not always fun. But sometimes it is funny. Sometimes in India I have to remember that as long as it ends up as a funny story later, I should laugh about it now.

Let me ‘splain…

As you might recall, our driver is a good driver. We are happy enough with him. He is reliable and kind. Sometimes communication with him is not easy, but most of the time he gets it pretty well. I have learned that whenever we are going in a caravan that I must get the other drivers phone numbers – just in case. That has proven to be very helpful and wise.

Things have been good enough. Until yesterday. Yesterday, I called him and told him I was on my way out of the school. He said, “Yes, ma’am, I am coming.” That’s what he always says and he always comes.

Until yesterday. I sat for about 10 minutes – yes, in the 110 degree heat – and then I called him back. No answer.

Houston, we have a problem.

I called again at 15 minutes. You got it. Still no answer. Now I am worried. It’s really not like him.

I want to worry about my driver like I want a root canal. Really, it’s just not on my list of priorities.

So, I call hubby. Who calls our driver. No answer.

Hubby calls his assistant. Hubby’s assistant calls our driver. No answer.

Yes, it was like beating our head against the wall – a wall with very long nails that have been waiting  in the 110 degree heat. Yes, that would hurt.  I know someone brilliant once said that repeating the same behavior over and over and expecting a different result is foolish.

Call us foolish. It’s like a bad joke – how many expats does it take to call a driver?

I called our driver again. What do you think the odds are that there was NO ANSWER?

Hubby sends another car. It’s going to take 45 minutes to get to me. Yeah, that’s a long time. Yes, it was super duper hot outside. Yes, I had to pee. Yes, I should have taken a cab. Something about being dependent on others makes you forget temporarily how to think in a straight line. Plus I am now really worried about our driver. I want to be sure he is okay.


As I sit waiting for driver number 2, driver number 1 shows up in a rickshaw. WTH?

It seems he locked his keys in the car – and his phone. WTH?

I wondered the same thing – yes, he answered the phone and told me he was coming. AND THEN he locked his keys in the car AND his phone. Seriously, WTH?

Upon further investigation interrogation, we learned that he was sleeping on the passenger side. I called and woke him up. He answered the phone. He got out of the car to get in the drivers seat and WALAHHHHHHHHH. Okay then.

Then he tried for 25 minutes to get into the car – while he knew I was waiting. He was literally around the corner trying for 25 minutes to open the door. When he ultimately accepted that he was not going to be able to get the door open without a key or call me without a phone, he caught a rickshaw to come give me an update. Yes, I suppose that was very kind of him.

Do you see how having a driver is like having a teenager? Did you see why it’s not all butterflies and unicorns dancing on rainbows?

Oh, and yes, it gets better. You knew it would.

Now our driver and I are waiting together outside in the heat. He feels terrible. I am not happy – glad that he is okay – but not really happy – but trying not to act like a biotch, because really  these things can happen. I cannot make small talk with him because (A) I don’t want to and (B) I don’t speak Hindi. It was like two divorced parents waiting to congratulate their kid for getting the Nobel Prize. All smiles on the outside – but not exactly happy, happy to be standing next to each other waiting.

So, driver number 2 (finally) comes. Driver number 1 gets in the front seat. I get in the back seat. We are going to my house to wait for a second set of keys to be delivered. It’s going to take about 2 hours. Fine.

All the way home I hear blah, blah, blah Ma’am (that’s me) – blah blah blah Saab (that’s hubby) – blah blah blah mobile (that’s how you say cell phone here).

That’s how it went the whole way home – ma’am – saab – mobile – ma’am – saab – mobile – ma’am – saab – mobile. AUGH!

Hey dudes, can you use that little device right in front of you? It’s called a rear view mirror and it lets you see what is behind you. That would be me. I don’t speak Hindi but I know what Saab and Ma’am mean. I know you are talking about me. STOP IT.

I remembered that I needed to get some cash. So, I asked driver 2 to stop at the ATM machine.

We stop at the ATM and now, ladies and gentlemen, we have ourselves a ballgame. Driver number 1 and driver number 2 are trying to see who is going to get to my door first to open it for me. They are like two kindergartners trying to be first in line for free ice cream and lizards.

While they are busy trying to out open each other, I turn slightly to the left and open my own friggin’ door. I have not completely forgotten how to take care of that for myself. And alas, I will need this simple skill in just a few weeks when I am left to my own devices in the U.S.

I went to the ATM and get money. Then back to the car. They’re at it again. Me first. No me first.

Seriously – I got it. It’s just a door – I can handle it. (get it?  “handle” it? door handle. hee hee)

And although, waiting in the 110 degree heat wasn’t that funny – and worrying about our driver is not what I would have picked to do – I can now see the humor in this. It has become a funny story.

Puja my ride………..

Yesterday,  I went to Number One Hubby’s office to attend the Puja for our new car. Getting a new car in India calls for a ceremony. Sign me up. Bless my little car. Puja my ride.

First of all I would like to point out that Number One Hubby picked out a brown car. That makes me smile. There aren’t many brown cars here – it will be easy to find and, fyi, brown is my favorite color. And it is a lovely milky chocolate shade of brown.

It is a delicate matter – the picking of the right date for a Puja – birthdates and anniversary dates might be considered – and the night before was an eclipse – that is a big Puja no – no. So we did it yesterday. In the morning. In the light of day. I do not know all of the particulars about how a date and time are chosen. But people who know were consulted. There are reasons why this time and date were chosen and I am certainly not tempting fate.

You might wonder if this is really a big deal. It is. It really is. About 25 people from my husband’s office came to watch it.

We pulled up and saw our car draped with flowers. The flowers on the hood formed a swastika – which sounds awful – but not in India. It is the equivalent of the Christian cross and is meant to ward off evil spirits. To keep us safe in our journeys and to bring us prosperous travels. They call it an auspicious symbol – that is a good thing.

A priest (Pujari) gave blessings in Hindi and chants in Sanskrit. He sprinkled the car with a flower that he had dipped in water.


Then he drew a swastika on the hood of the car and another on the steering wheel. He burned incense.


The priest marked our foreheads with red dye – a mark known as a tilaka. Then placed rice over it.


A lei of flowers was draped around Number One Hubby’s neck.


Red yarn was wrapped around our wrists.


The red dye and the yarn were supposed to contain saffron. It is hoped that it will be absorbed into our brain and our bodies.

We will leave both the dye and the yarn in place until they come off on their own.

Number One Hubby then broke a coconut and sprinkled the milk on the car. This was pretty funny actually. Even the priest laughed – funny is universal. Number One Hubby was supposed to hold on to the coconut and break it open on the ground. Then, while still holding the pieces, sprinkle the juice on the car. If you have ever seen my Hubby attack a pinata, you know what happened next. He slammed that coconut on the ground so hard it shattered. Bring on the chuckles. No harm, no foul though – he just picked up the pieces and sprinkled away.


Then we were given two lemons each – to place under each tire of the car. Number One Hubby and I got in the car and drove over the lemons. Squish. Squirt.

Finally we gave an offering to the priest. The envelope was also decorated with a swastika.


Everyone who attended the Puja was so happy for us. It felt similar to a baptism. Congratulations and well wishes were showered up us.  We were even given a gift. A statue of Ganesha to place on the dashboard. He will protect us during any new adventure.


Attending this puja was a lot like going to a High Catholic Mass given in Latin when you were raised Southern Baptist. Sure, you can follow along and hopefully not look like a complete idiot. But you will watch the people beside you so you know just what to do.

Here are a couple tidbits that I learned. When participating in Hindu ceremonies, you always accept things with both hands. BUT, you receive it first in your right hand and then place your left hand under your right. Note to self – right first, left under right. Got it. We also took off our shoes for the parts of the ceremony that we participated in. Second note to self – keep pedicure up-to-date.

As with any good ceremony, there were a couple of (very) funny things that happened. The priest’s cell phone went off during the ceremony. That was hysterical – at first I thought it was mine – I was mortified – but it wasn’t – it was the priest’s. Seriously, that’s funny – a ceremony steeped in old traditions and rich with rituals was interrupted by modern technology. Don’t ask me why he did not put it on vibrate – I did not ask. But I do wish I knew if he answered in Sanskrit.

The other thing was that we left the ceremony with much congratulations and many well wishes. We pulled out of the parking lot and drove – I dunno – maybe 500 feet – and we got sideswiped. Yes we did. And no, I wasn’t the one driving. It was a very small fender bender. No one was hurt. The other driver did not even stop. Maybe he was late for his puja.