Thursday, March 11, 2010

Car Wash Confessional



My car is really dirty right now I suppose as a result of weeks of on-again-off-again rain coupled with my propensity towards procrastination. I’m not a stickler for a spotlessly clean car. I’m not a stickler for a spotlessly clean anything – personal hygiene notwithstanding – I do shower and brush my teeth every day. But I digress…

By the time this post goes live, my car will have been washed. It’s past the point of acceptable filth, so tomorrow I will go to the car wash. Once my car is clean and I drive out of the parking lot and into the street, something will happen. I will begin to notice the cars that are not clean. From inside my newly clean vehicle, I will sit in judgment of those who dare drive around in a dirty car. Why do I do this? It’s horrible, I know. I try not to, but I do it anyway.

I think the reason I do this is for the same reason that, after quitting smoking I judged those who still smoked, and after I quit drinking I judged those who still drank. Because once my car is clean and my lungs no longer filled with smoke and my liver no longer in danger of cirrhosis, that somehow makes me feel superior.

I think on average, I do fairly well in the “not comparing myself to others” category. There are certain things I think I’m fairly good at, and other things I’m not so good at. I’m really okay with that. Mostly. And I don’t judge those who smoke and drink anymore. I have plenty of friends who do one or both, and I don’t like them any less, nor do I feel superior to them.

So what’s the deal with the clean car snobbery? I’m not certain, but I think it has to do with the fact that keeping my car clean is something I struggle with. With two kids, carpools, rainy weather, etc., my car seems to get dirty more often than I care to clean it. And when I do go to the trouble of getting it clean, I immediately begin to subconsciously wonder why others can’t. It’s the selfish and shameful part of me that wants to stand in judgment without having walked in mile in someone else’s shoes. It’s easy to do that from inside of your car. Easy to dehumanize a person from within a metal and glass box on wheels.

But then I sometimes find myself stepping out of my car and doing the same thing. Wondering why someone can’t seem to get it together, or control their kids at the mall, or keep from gossiping about others, or worrying about keeping up with the Joneses.

Which is weird, because those are all things I’ve struggled with.

Or maybe it’s not so weird after all.

Maybe God’s trying to tell me something.

As a matter of fact, I'm pretty sure He is.

14 comments:

L.T. Elliot said...

I find myself doing this too, especially with the inside of the car. I hate picking up my kids from the carpool and having people see it dirty. And then there are times I see other people's dirty cars and have to stop myself from judging. Sometimes, I wonder if I'll ever get it right. ;)

♥ Kathy said...

I'm that way about dirty homes even though I try really hard not to be...in my defense it has to be really filthy for me to feel superior..it's still bad though and I'm working on quitting that!

Candy said...

I remember saying that same thing about kids. "Mine will never act like that." They did. Yes, they did. Worse. I think God makes us eat crow a lot as a way of getting His message across.

It works.

Helen said...

Funny but true: I woke up this morning thinking that now that the weather is nicer (51 degrees right now, I wonder if I should start planting lettuce, or if we will still have another frost...) , I should clean the inside of my car and get a car wash! Great minds and all that....

I know what you mean about judging. I actively work on not judging others for the very faults I have every day. I hate bickering with myself in my mind. But I do. Every day.

Steph @Red Clay Diaries said...

I live on a dirt road. I never have the chance to feel superior to a dirty car. My black SUV is permanently coated with a brownish-red film.

That doesn't stop me, however, from judging other things. Just today I was feeling cranky because Charlie was a slob for not emptying the kitchen trash can. (On a serious note: What is it about guys that makes them want to cram ONE MORE THING into the can rather than emptying it? Is it a macho thing?)

Anyway, I was mad at Charlie, but it's not like *I* had done any trash-emptying either.

Cassandra Frear said...

I was thinking about this the other day. It extends your analogy a bit. So to take a few liberties here . . .

God cleanses us from our past and shows us a new way of life. This comes to us through grace.

Our tendency is to become proud.

We turn from grace to judgement. And in doing, we forfeit the further blessings of grace that might be ours.

~*Michelle*~ said...

Ahhhhhhhh judgment. Something I totally struggle with.

And something that God constantly beats me over the head to teach me not to do.

For example.....I used to pass judgment on those kids who would whine/scream and throw tantrums in stores when they couldn't get what they wanted. God had the last laugh when He sent us our daughter (after three pretty well behaved boys) who would throw herself on the ground and pull the melting spaghetti legs syndrome when I would pull her up.....whispering through gritted teeth on what would happen next if she didn't knock it off.

Yes, I have left many store with my tail between my legs.....and a screaming 3 year old attached to it as well.

*sigh*

Great post! I love your brutal honesty.

jasonS said...

Kat, I am totally better at not judging people than you (obvious, but needed to be said) :)

You make a very valid reminder here. Also, I'm glad that you shower and brush your teeth every day. That is all.

Helen said...

Jason,
Don't you think doing something EVERY day is a sign of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder... Which, apparently, I have....
Katdish,
Remember when I thought I had CDO.... Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, arranged alphabetically as it properly should be....

Robin Arnold said...

I went looking for a car wash in my new neighborhood (lived here since June 2009) and didn't find one. I need to find a place though because I made a brakes appointment for tomorrow and I'm thinking a clean underside is more civilized.

I think cleanliness is a stewardship matter, and therefore, some level of judgement is expected in order to keep a standard. I'm thinking about that though.

Jim H said...

Great confession, but I'd like to shed a little light on the cramming the trashcan full. Man logic states "If one more item will fit, it doesn't need to be emptied."
I'm not lazy, just energy efficient

nAncY said...

if i have a confession...do i need to go through the car wash?

Boy Crazy said...

This is a fantastic post. At the literal level, I have to admit that it doesn't even occur to me (ever) to get my car washed. I clean out the inside, but I don't even notice how dirty the outside gets. (which is ironic because my dad owned a carwash and service station, and I spent my highschool years drying cars, pumping gas and changing oil to save for college.)

Anyway, the point you make with these examples is a good one, and I admire your honesty. I catch myself judging when I see people giving their kids junk food. As if I know whether it's a regular thing or a treat. Or any of my business, for that matter.

-elizabeth

Amy Sorrells said...

I like this post, katdish! I just posted my column from this week, which is about auto repair shops. In which I have spent the better part of my life for the last three weeks. What is God trying to teach me? Thanks to you, I'll try to listen for Him and find out.