True Gripes: Washing day blues: Getting to grips with the jet wash

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The Independent Online
On the boot of my car, forefingered in the London grime, some anonymous wag had scrawled: 'I need a clean'. Reluctantly, I had to agree.

Having sat guiltily through the death of a thousand dirty nylon bristles a few months before, I had made a vow to stop being lazy and resort to bucket and sponge. But faced with the actual prospect of a couple of hours of sweaty toil, pleasant memories of entire Sundays spent valeting the family saloon with Dad quickly evaporated.

The jet wash is the ideal compromise. It offers complete control without removing the element of hard graft. It is operated by hand, sort of, in a sort of semi-automatic kind of way.

Token in hand, I ponder the menu: the basic blast or the deluxe combo. Owing to the criminally short periods of time allotted by the programmers to each stage of the wash, the pricier option tends to leave you waxing when you would prefer to continue hot rinsing. I hand over pounds 4, the temptation to consume conspicuously proving too strong.

Deposit token in slot. In an attempt to unravel the rubber hose I soak my jeans. First blood to the machine. I grab the foaming broomstick while the electronic beep urges me on.

A high pressure water cannon can be a powerful tool in the right hands. You only have to look at the way the Italian riot police deal with dissatisfied Milanese football hooligans. Shifting encrusted dirt at high speed requires a different set of skills, however, and unless you have done time in the elephant house at London Zoo, you are unlikely to have acquired them.

With half the car passably clean, the beep reminds me how inefficient I have been. In a straight race against the machine, I am already a couple of yards behind. The secret is not to panic. Starting to panic, I cop a desert bootful of water.

The next punter, waiting in line, seems to be enjoying the performance. Inside the car, the best seat in the house, hysteria assists my girlfriend with her impersonation of a Smash Martian on laughing gas. Never too closely involved, she is a big fan of this method of automative grooming. I continue rinsing in silence and keep an eye peeled for Jeremy Beadle.

After giving the bodywork one last smack with the barrel of the gun, I replace it approximately in its badly-designed holster. Diving back into the anonymity of the car, damp but not defeated, we slouch away.

Roll on Bob-A-Job day.