Washing Cars & Wasting Time: Misadventures at a Family-Run Car Wash

John C. Oliva
Orange Hat Publishing (2013)
ISBN: 9781937165406
Reviewed by Daryn Watson for Reader Views (10/13)

John C. Oliva’s “Washing Cars & Wasting Time” is a very comedic recollection of his teenage and college days of working at his family’s indoor car wash in Milwaukee, WI. Years of working for his Dad, John F. Oliva, at Speedee Car Wash, as it was called, was the cornerstone that would mold John’s unique and off the wall sense of humor and thinking. 

From the years of 1992 to 1998, John worked at Speedee Car Wash with his older sister, Jenni, and his good friend John. The job itself was quite boring in the summers because most times there were very little customer demands for an indoor car wash. The flipside was that the winters, especially on weekends, were extremely busy. There would be dozens of cars throughout the day with a lineup of customers waiting to get into the car wash and out of the cold Wisconsin winters. 

The Oliva family was not one that would bend over backwards for their customers. “The customer is always right” was not their motto nor in their vocabulary for that matter. Many of their customers were viewed as being not too intelligent nor would they follow the policies of Speedee car wash.  For example, there were signs posted throughout the car wash stating “No Buckets Allowed” and people would fill soapy water into their buckets while attempting to spend an extended amount of time washing their cars without having to pay for extra minutes. 

This was a complete rules violation and a stupid one at that. Customers would spend valuable car wash clock time trying to fill a bucket with a highly projected spray of water and then sponge their car (if they got away with it). However, few of them thought of how they were going to actually rinse off their cars if they did get away with hiding a bucket and sponging it down. Inevitably the customer would have to pay another $1.75 for another cycle to rinse their car. 

The Oliva family lived within a short viewing distance of the car wash, which enabled John’s dad to keep an eye on things. Most issues had to do with the customers’ stupidity and not the staff. 

I thoroughly enjoyed reading “Washing Cars and Wasting Time.” John C. Oliva does an excellent job describing the subtleties of trying to stay sane while working in a car wash. His story telling and buildup to describing the scenes in the book are immaculate. I would highly recommend this book to anyone. John’s outlook on life gives a lot of food for thought on how to view car wash customers and customer service in a unique, comedic light. 

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