Coffee with your car-wash madam?

A long black, a mag and a mint take the edge off waiting ...

This morning I had to take my car in for its Warrant of Fitness. It expires today and I thought it a prudent course of action, preferable to receiving an instant $200 fine if caught without one!

I disappeared to a nearby cafe for the hour-pong duration. Not a bad start to the day really … time to read the paper, observe the early morning coffee traffic and enjoy the buzz. When I returned, young service manager Chris asked me if I’d like them to clean my car – complimentary of course – it would only take 15 minutes and I could have a cup of coffee or tea while waiting. Who can resist a question like that? After all, a cheery voice on the radio this morning told me that if I were to use this particular dealership, I’d be offered coffee in a barista-style setting. Hold on – isn’t a barista the person who makes the coffee? I looked it up in my 1999 Concise Oxford Dictionary and online – the word hasn’t even made it to the pages yet!

I actually love cleaning my car, but only in summer when I can strip off to the barest essentials, have the sun on my back and the car stereo up loud – preferably with something like Nouvelle Vague, something provocative – something to stir neighbours out of their reverie. I love soaping up the bonnet, hosing off the suds, executing long sweeping stretches as I wipe the chamois over the gleaming black paintwork. Its very therapeutic.

But it’s winter now and it’s cold. I’d rather someone else cleaned my car so I took up the invitation.

Chris made my coffee, assuring me that it was going to be very strong. There were two couches, a low table with magazines neatly lined in rows according to reading taste, a bowl of cellophane-wrapped mints,  and a flat-screened TV tuned to a radio station. I sat and tried to get comfortable – not easy. The couches were designed for a a six footer, there was no way I could rest my back against the hard cushion and sit elegantly as well. I felt a bit like a five-year old with my legs stretched straight out in front of me and my toes pointing skyward – not a good look! Sadly I’m not blessed with long legs. In my next life, if I can’t come back as a sushi-loving cat who spends her (yes, her) day languishing in the sun, then I’d really like another six inches in height.

“The couches aren’t designed for comfort,” said Chris “They’re just there to look good.”

And he smiled.

So I perched on the edge of the couch with my back hunched forward, put on my glasses, spread out a magazine in front of me and drank my coffee.

While there, it occurred to me that the offer of coffee has become part and parcel of everyday life. At the hairdresser, I’m always offered coffee the minute I walk through the door and again after the foils are on; while I was visiting a bridal boutique with my daughter recently, I was offered coffee as sat down to watch the procession of options. I declined that offer. Drinking coffee amidst luxuriously white garments seemed too big a risk to take.

I did occur to me the practice of offering coffee with service might put cafes out of business.

Heaven forbid!


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