time for a car wash? if you’re in north dakota, think twice…

I knew I was taking my chances. It’s been a chilly week here in Fargo, ND. Okay, never mind chilly. I heard a Pop! in the garage the other day and thought someone was shooting at us, but later realized it was a bottle of cleaning concoction that had blown its top. If our cases of cola had been in the garage as they sometimes are, there would have been multiple explosions. Needless to say, our beautiful November is a long-ago memory now.

So why the urge to get a car wash here and now? For one, I’d just spent over $100 for an oil change; an oil change that ended up including a burned-out front light, loose belt (still under warranty) and, oh yeah, the oil change itself. I figured if my van was going to be running better on the inside, its extremities needed to be matched up to its refreshed interior. The other contributing factor was 4-year-old’s finger prick at the doctor’s office. I’d promised him a treat for having undergone the dreaded "operation" with the bravery of a small gallant knight.

Don’s Car Wash to the rescue. Don’s is a luxury, to be sure, the Cadillac of car-wash operations. You leave your vehicle with the experts then go inside to a warm shop filled with every kind of car air-freshener and gadget on the market, not to mention a plethora of…treats. I would be killing two birds with one stone, and ensuring my van would be washed in a warm interior, lessening the chances of frozen van doors. It seemed like a brilliant plan at the time. After the wash was completed, we got into the van, the little one still licking chocolate off his fingers, and buzzed off to do the after-school roundup.

It wasn’t until a few hours later, when picking up pizzas for the family, that I realized I had not escaped the affliction of the after-car-wash van freeze. After placing the pizzas on the floor in the back and shutting the driver’s side door, the back door popped open. And it would not close. It appeared closed, but every time I would try to shut the driver’s door, the back would open. A close inspection revealed no visible ice particles and the warm pizza soon would be cold if I didn’t get a move-on. So, I drove back to our home with my left arm wound through to the back seat holding the back door handle to keep the door shut and the pizza warm, and my right arm on the steering wheel up front. Yeah, must have been quite a sight, not to mention a little dangerous.

The next morning I thought for sure the van would have thawed. As I began to drive off with the five pint-sized passengers to school, the back door sprang open again. This time, oldest did the ice inspection and he, too, came up empty. We were running late — there was a special event at school and time was of the essence. So, we switched the booster seat next to the springy, frozen door to another spot, and had one of the older kids do "door duty" as we made our way through the busy morning streets, praying as we approached the hilly spots en route.

By the time all the school kids were dropped off, the door had decided to cooperate and shut, thankfully. I don’t think 4-year-old would have had the strength to pull off door duty.

If my van expects another wash anytime soon, it’s out of luck. Until springtime, anyway. So if you see a grungy van that used to be a silvery gray driving through town this winter, that’d be us. From now on, we’re erring on the side of caution and choosing safe over clean.

When was the last time you’ve found yourself in a pickle? How did you get out of it?