Oswaldo (short, fat, bushy eyebrows kind of guy), owned a car wash in a suburb. It’s been a family business for four generations now and the whole neighborhood respects its services. His wife, Stella, runs the cash register. She’s also short and fat but has a thin mustache instead of bushy eyebrows.
During Oswaldo’s final rundown on a BMW, the customer walked up behind him and fiddled with his wallet to get his tip. Oswaldo was completely wired in. Squeak, rub, wipe, over and over again. He barely noticed the customer. Cleaning the literal shit out of cars was everything to him. He hadn’t drank water in hours and it was sweltering hot outside.
The customer tapped Oswaldo’s shoulder, “How’s business been lately?”
Oswaldo craned his neck and wiped his brow, squinting at the customer to get a better look. “To be honest with you, it’s been pretty fucking slow. We’re barely getting our daily quota.” He took a fat sip from his water bottle. “I really appreciate your patronage right now.”
And he sure as hell did. That day the car wash only had four cars. And it was two hours till closing time.
“Well I mean, getting your car washed is a luxury nowadays.”
“The fuck is nowadays supposed to mean? You’re like 30.” Oswaldo recently found his first gray hair. In his left eyebrow. So he was sensitive to this kind of stuff.
The customer handed Oswaldo his tip. “We’re in a recession. No one gives a damn about how their car looks.”
Yeah, we’re in 2008. America’s economy is a shit show at the moment. Oswaldo wanted to accidentally scratch this guy’s BMW for no good reason other than the fact that he could give a damn about how his car looks. But he gave a good tip and got the Supreme Clean (it’s where they use a special chemical to get even the toughest stains out — for only an extra ten bucks).
Oswaldo opened the car door for the customer. He took another fat sip from his water bottle, spilling some on his shirt this time.
“I gotta keep this car wash alive. It’s been through four recessions. We can handle another.”
The customer ignored him and stepped into his car. He pulled out his wallet again and scrolled through a few hundreds and gave Oswaldo a crisp 50.
“Get your wife a nice dress or something. Or save it.” And with that, the customer rolled up his window and sped off.
Oswaldo stared at the crisp 50 in his spongy hands. If they remain at the current pace of car washes, by the end of the month they’ll have to start pulling from their savings to keep it running. In other words, they were fucked. Just like everyone else.
Later that night, Oswaldo and Stella were drinking a cold beer on their porch. It was their last bottle for a while — anything other than water was soon going to become a luxury.
“How did your folks get through it when Carter fucked everything up?” Stella asked, leaning forward on her knees. She was visibly worried. And she never was.
“They had kids who were old enough to work more than one job so they managed.”
“Well, fuck. You really gonna do this now?” You see, Stella couldn’t have babies and Oswaldo had always wanted a son to keep the business running. So, yeah.
Oswaldo put down the bottle and gently placed his hand on Stella’s knee. “I didn’t mean anything by it. But I think I know what might get us through for a while.”
You should probably know that Oswaldo was incredibly passionate about the car wash. It was his legacy. If he couldn’t have a son, he could have a car wash that would outlive him. So he was going to do whatever the fuck it took to get through the recession alive. After the rich customer gave him the 50 earlier that day, Oswaldo kept pondering what he said about it being a luxury to wash your car nowadays. Well, what if it wasn’t a luxury? What if it was a necessity?
Oswaldo took a long a sip from his beer and cracked a smile. He felt righteous. “We create a demand, honey. That’s what we need to do.” He leaned forward in his chair, “it’s basic economics. You see a demand, so you supply it. Right now, we don’t have a demand because no one gives a damn about the way their cars look. But we can create that demand. You know how?”
Stella was drawn back into herself in doubt. But, she slowly leaned forward and asked, “How?”
Oswaldo drove to the local market with the crisp 50 and bought five bags of bird food, a couple of buckets of tar, and five bags of coffee. When he got home, Stella was already asleep in their bed. He made the full batch of coffee and poured all of it into a sealed bucket for paint. He loaded the tar and bird food into his car and picked up a paintbrush from the garage. It was probably around midnight at this point. The streets were empty. Oswaldo spent almost the entire night driving around the neighborhood splashing tar with his paintbrush on the sides of people’s parked cars in their driveways, pouring coffee on the seats of cars with the windows slightly open, and putting bird food on the roofs of as many cars as possible.
Fuck luxury. He was going to make his dead mom and dad proud.
The next day, there were cars lined up for almost half a mile to get a car wash. Oswaldo greeted the fuck out of each valued customer, especially those that got the Supreme Clean (which was almost everyone). Tip or no tip, Oswaldo cleaned furiously and passionately, forgetting to drink water for hours on end. The rush lasted almost the entire day. His spongy hands were like raisins at closing time, but his eyebrows were happy. Stella finished counting their earnings for the day with an excited scream, announcing that they had quadrupled their daily quota. Oswaldo nearly exploded because of the joy. Later that night, they had the best sex they’ve had in months.
So, yeah. Obviously it wasn’t going to last. Things were slow again the following day. Oswaldo and Stella were bummed about it. His eyebrows barely moved that day. They needed a sustainable solution. Oswaldo spent most of the day trying to find a solution, but nothing came to mind. So he did it again. Yep, he went out that night and dirtied people’s cars.
The next day, boom: business was thriving. Towards closing time, a familiar BMW pulled into the car wash driveway. It was the rich customer. He got out of his car and headed straight for Oswaldo.
Oswaldo looked up from the car he was washing and with a big smile, he greeted the fuck out of —
“What do you think you’re doing?” the rich customer sneered.
Oswaldo clenched his butt cheeks and shrugged.
“I heard about this random dirty car fiasco from a few friends of mine. I also own the chain of markets in the area, and when I was going through inventory I found that someone named Oswaldo Gutierrez had purchased ten bags of bird food, a four of buckets of tar, and ten bags of coffee. You would be Oswaldo, right?”
Oswaldo felt a stream of sweat trickle its way down between his clenched butt cheeks. He nodded.
“And these cars all have tar, coffee, and bird shit stains, right?” The rich customer was almost red with anger.
Oswaldo started to cry. Into the rich customer’s chest. He begged for him not to tell anyone through his snot-filled mouth but the rich customer wouldn’t have it. He let Oswaldo have the last of the several customers for that day, but he told the police as soon as the car wash hit closing time. The rich customer was a man of grace, surprisingly. Oswaldo and Stella were charged for business malpractice and the car wash was shut down within a few weeks. They had enough money to last them for several months until they had to pull from their savings. So, in short, they weren’t that fucked at the time. But Oswaldo was heartbroken. It was like losing the son he never had. He got more gray hairs and started having heart problems after the 32nd job rejection. Stella wasn’t having a good time, either. She found a job as a grocery bagger (ironically, at one of the rich customer’s stores) but her boss flirted with her and it paid like shit.
Almost a year down the road, Oswaldo and Stella were sitting on their porch one night. By this point, they were halfway through their savings and Oswaldo was still out of a job. They sat next to one another in silence for a good ten minutes, not looking each other.
“We still have all of the cleaning stuff from the car wash, don’t we?” Stella asked, breaking the silence.
Oswaldo kept looking ahead. He nodded.
“Let’s clean houses. The rich folks always need people to clean their houses because they’re so busy. We can start again, and this time keep it clean.”
Oswaldo laughed a bit. “Good one.”
Stella eyed him weirdly, confused.
“Keep it clean. We’re talking about cleaning houses and you said–”
“What do you think?”
Oswaldo cracked a smile and leaned forward, looking straight at Stella. His eyebrows were raised playfully. “We haven’t had sex in two months.”
That night, they had the best sex they’ve had in two months. And they continued to have the best sex ever for several years after that. Turns out the rich customer had a lot of rich friends who needed cleaning, too.