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Several years ago, I began a career in car washing. I use the term loosely, because at the time, there was very little about what I did for the company that owned the car wash that resembled a career. When people asked what I did, I said I was an assistant manager, which meant I covered the shifts that other people could not, or would not, cover. With the privilege of being the assistant manager, came the opportunity to run the car wash, every other Sunday, alone, from open to close. Meals were eaten between customers and the customers were the only thing that broke the mundane passing of time during slower days.

Luckily for me, a company with a more progressive work environment ended up owning the car wash. Luckily for me, I seem to be a fit for what they are trying to accomplish. It was not obvious to anyone, even me, that my first job in car washing was a step in the direction of something better, but it was. As things get better, it does not make me think  in a good or ill way of my first experience. There were lessons learned and good people around me then.

After some years of working in the industry, I heard the term, “stack”. A technician used it to refer to the cars waiting to be washed, after the customer paid, and before the entrance to the car wash. There I was tasked with helping the customer guide their car onto the track, making sure the car was in neutral, the customer’s foot was off the brake, and that they exited the wash safely with a clean car. On Sundays, alone, I was also tasked with customer questions, maintaining the free vacuums, sweeping the lot, and ensuring the equipment was running well. On busier days, it was a lot of work, on slower days, it might be mundane and boring.

If you know me, or have read any of my previous articles, you understand that I cannot leave well enough alone. There is something in me that wants to take an ordinary thing and make it into an extraordinary thing. To take an everyday occurrence and find a miracle. To make a work of art out of seemingly insignificant part of the day. Sundays were no different. The stack was the perfect opportunity to test my somewhat unorthodox theories on personal relationships and customer service.

Naturally, I picked up the habit of making eye contact with customers, waving before they began their three minute journey through the express tunnel car wash, and thanking them loud enough for them to hear me over whatever was happening in their car. What I began doing also, did not come so naturally. Each person that came through the wash, especially on Sundays, especially when I was working alone, received in my mind, a well-wish, a good thought, or to quote the hippies that have lived before me, a good vibe. Not for tips. I rarely accepted tips. Not for what they might do for me. Most simply drove away after the wash was over. But, in a real sense, to make better use of my time as I spent 12 to 14 hours of that day, earning a wage.

As it might be imagined, some people smiled back, gave a little wave, or expressed gratitude in some small way. As it might be imagined also, others did not. Regardless of their reaction, as they passed by in their vehicle, I tried to surround them with whatever love I had, as I moved on to the next customer. When customers had a complaint after the wash, I found myself more focused on hearing what they had to say. When customers needed help with something, I found myself more enjoying the experience of being able to help. Even when I arrived home, I found myself more engaged in spending time with my family. My mood was better, my confidence increased, and I had the feeling that somehow I was connected to the community I was serving.

In the years since, my time has been divided with other washes in the area. Whenever I return to that particular wash, it is always like coming home. Usually there is a customer who asks where I have been or that shares some story about what has been happening in their lives. There is the feeling that comes from visiting a place where a lot of well-wishes were given and a lot of well-wishes were received. It may not be sacred ground, but it is as close to sacred ground as any ground I hope to be.

Over time, there have been customers who just stopped by to give me a hug. There have been customers who have asked me to meet with them and discuss my working with and for them. Some customers thank me for a small kindness I did years ago. What thrills me the most is when a customer is excited to tell a good story about those that currently run that wash.

Of course, there have been those that just cannot be satisfied. One man, years ago, was so angry he used the door of the wash to push me across the office. The assistant manager at the time (after my beginning to manage the site) watched and listened as I was dog cussed, thrown around, and chose not respond in kind. This was my proudest moment in car washing. I wished that man well also, and when he drove off, I surrounded him with love in my own silent way.

All of these words to express the simple notion that each of us have a stack. If you work in nursing, you have a stack. If you spend all day scrolling through Facebook, you have a stack. You may be a businessman, or a lawyer, or a trash collector, or a crossing guard, but you have a stack. Even today, as I work in car washing, in ways not typically involving the guiding of cars onto a track, I have a stack. It serves me well with everyone, to wish them well, surround them with love, and to know they are a creation of source, as am I. But what of the first person you see each day?

The first person in your stack, every day, is you. Do not wait until you step on the scale to determine your worth. Do not wait until you rehearse everything that happened yesterday to decide if you will be grateful. Do not wait until you meet the second person in your stack to judge how you will react to those next in line. You are a miracle. You were able to take that last breath. Your possibility is not defined by your previous experience. If there are a hundred people in your stack for the day, make certain that the first person in your stack is greeted with a well-wish, a good thought, or as the hippies that lived before me would say, a good vibe. You are at the same time the observer and the creator of your life. See the miracle that you are and know also that I hope to see you in my stack soon.


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Author: Kevin Thompson

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