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ESSAY: In This Weather, Enter the Car Wash at Your Own Risk


Lake Effect essayist Mark Siegrist learned a thing or two about icing when he took his own man-made structure out into the cold:

Mother Nature was displaying a split personality: sunny, yet frigid, just above zero.

The ice scraper was useless. A few stabs at the windshield was the best I could do. The rest of my ride was covered in road salt. The old Cavalier was a mess.

This called for action. So I set sail for the neighborhood car wash. The closer I got, the more I questioned my judgment. Would the doors freeze up – locking me out for the rest of my morning errands?

Maybe. But if the place is open, and other fools before me are taking the risk, what’s the worst that could happen?

I felt much safer when I realized I had sufficient company. That is, until the attendant took my four bucks, and mumbled something while heading back to her position. With my filthy frozen car in neutral, locked in place, and about to be dragged through a tunnel of water, I yelled back, asking her to clarify.

"I’m sorry, what did you say?"

"You’re entering at your own risk," she pleasantly responded. I suddenly felt a slight tug on the car to signal the start of my journey. As my window was closing I heard her complete the legal warning in a more muffled tone with the words, "...because it’s so cold outside."

My mind started racing - and with it, my atrial fibrillation.

“Godspeed, John Glenn,” I thought to myself. I’m headed for the final frontier - a mechanical frozen tundra.

I checked my seat belt, and cell phone, anticipating what’s next. A shattered windshield perhaps? Would a high pressure sprayer, or vacuum be my ultimate fate? How embarrassing to be rescued from a mangled conveyor by the jaws of life.

Finally, I break through the storm clouds and see daylight at the end of the tunnel.

Is this heaven? No, it’s South 27th Street in all its commercial glory. Civilization at last. I survived - with a good wind from the dryers at my back, and some errands to keep.

Well, at least once I get the driver’s side door to open again. She was right.

Because it’s so cold outside.

Mark Siegrist is a freelance television producer in Milwaukee, whose work appears on Milwaukee Public Television and other outlets. His children’s book, Smoochy Dog Earns a Badge, has just been published as well.