"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times

Sunday, September 13, 2009


I thought today's post had nothing to do with writing, but maybe I'm mistaken.

I know, alert the media.

This weekend, I worked a car wash to raise funds for my son's choir. I'm the booster club president this year, so I kind of supervised things and made decisions and counted the money. Although the kids worked hard, they seemed to have fun and it was great to see them bonding, especially at the start of the school year.

For me, it was kind of like a book signing or other festival, where I'm talking to potential customers, schmoozing and laughing and having a good time. I sometimes wonder how I still manage to think of myself as a shy person, when as soon as I'm in a crowd, my mouth just starts flapping.

Many wonderful people came to get their cars washed. Some gave us more than our advertised price ($5 for cars, $7 for the big stuff). One man walked over and gave us five dollars as a donation. A few of the customers were alumni of our high school (Valencia H.S. in Placentia - Go Tigers!), and one lady has twins at VHS in their sophomore year. They were gracious, chatty, and eager to help us earn a little money.

And then this guy showed up.

"Your kids aren't very friendly," he said. "No one's greeted me."

"We'll greet you," I told him. I looked down the parking lot at the kids. "They seem to be a little occupied with washing cars."

He took a five dollar bill out of his wallet and I looked at his vehicle. It was an SUV, about the size of my hubby's Ford Escape.

"SUVs are seven dollars," I said.

He held onto his bill. "Well, then never mind. I can get my car washed for five somewhere else. It's not big enough for seven dollars."

My smile froze as I considered my options:

1. Explain to him that this is a fund raiser to help our children survive a school year where budget cuts have forced us to raise money so our teacher can make copies and what kind of louse begrudges a charity two extra dollars?

2. End our tug-of-war over the bill and encourage him to go find his Five Dollar Shangri-La.

3. Shut up and take the money.

The pity of it is, at the end of the day, it was five dollars more than we had, so I took the last course. I gave in, wished him well (to his face), and called him a jackass (behind his back). The good news is, he didn't complain about the quality of the wash.

Out of the entire wonderful, blessed, happy day, that man still leaves a nasty film on my memory. The only way I can clean it off is to write about it, which makes this post all about the writing. From exorcising our demons to expressing our joy, if we can pour our emotions on the page, it keeps us from exploding.

Maybe that guy will end up in the next novel - as one of my victims…


CoffeeJitters (Judy Haley) said...

I don't know where I first heard this quote, but lately it's been something of a mantra for me:
"Bad things never happen to writers, it's all material."

dino martin peters said...

Thanks for venting...we all need to do that...and thanks for supporting your son and the other students....

Gayle Carline said...

CoffeeJitters - right you are (or whoever said it first)! When something in my house blows up, the first thing in my head is, "Cool, fodder for another story!"

Mr. Peters - I truly want to be the village that raises the kids, and I can't understand the mindsets of people who don't.

dino martin peters said...

That's a wonderful goal Miss Gayle, stick with it....maybe you have heard this wisdom before....there are two kinds of people in the world, the givers and the takers...the givers wear out, and the takers never get enough...you seem like a giver to me....the car wash guy...well I think he must be a taker...

N A Sharpe said...

Ah, I remember the days of the school fund raisers quite fondly. As you described, the community often comes together to support such a deserving event. Sounds like you and the kids all had a wonderful day in spite of Mr SUV. Venting does help and if this guy catches in your crawl this much...he may well make an excellent character in a future work.

Nancy, from Realms of Thought…

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