Jewish World Review Dec. 19, 2003 / 24 Kislev, 5764

Lloyd Garver

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Consumer Reports

Clean getaway for holiday shoppers | I've been ambivalent about sharing a secret for quite a while. However, with the holidays upon us, I feel it's my duty to let you in on it: I know of a place where you can do all your holiday shopping in a few minutes without waiting in outrageous lines. This miraculous spot is called, "the carwash."

When I was a kid, people just went to the carwash to have their cars washed. Soon, they started selling a few things like decorative steering wheel covers, license plate holders, and tire gauges. But gradually, carwashes began selling a wider and wider range of products, and now they've got something for everybody on your holiday list.

You might be hesitant about shopping for your loved ones at the same place where you get your tires Armoralled. Don't be. The ambience is not bad. Often, the first thing you'll see and smell are bath oils and cosmetics. Many carwashes sell candy bars, soft drinks, and coffee (some even have fancy coffees and lattes). Can you say that about the regular stores where you've been foolishly shopping? Carwashes also generally have a clean and accessible bathroom — something that can mean a great deal to holiday shoppers.

The carwash "boutique" has bath towels for babies and stuffed animals for toddlers. There are toys and puzzles. There are mouse pads for the techie on your list. There are candles, slippers, and jewelry boxes. For that special somebody, you can always find a decanter shaped like an overweight chef.

Carwashes also sell books. In addition to best sellers and classics, for some inexplicable reason, many carwashes sell "inspirational books." There are New Age and religious books, and some about Zen and meditation. For that friend who is just out of rehab, there are books about addiction. There are others about curing anxiety, phobias, and panic attacks. And there are books on tape.

Caveat emptor regarding some of those audiocassettes — if you buy a relaxation tape for your stressed-out friends, make sure they know not to play them in their cars. I really wouldn't recommend closing your eyes and taking deep cleansing breaths while driving.

If you have a pet lover on your list, this is the place to shop. They sell yoga books for dogs, and manuals on how to communicate with your cat.

For those who are trying to get pregnant, the carwash can change their life with a book on fertility and conception. That volume will go nicely with the "Get 10 Washes And The Next One's Free" policy. If the lucky couple gets their car washed once a month, soon after the baby's born, they can get a wash for free! Is there a more perfect gift?

I know what you're thinking. "What if Aunt Sophie doesn't like the coaster shaped like an armadillo?" "What if Uncle Harry already has an 'I'm with Stupid' T-shirt?" And maybe you don't feel comfortable telling them that they can exchange their gifts at a place that dispenses carnauba wax. I'm way ahead of you. If you sense the "What the hell am I going to do with this?" look on the recipient's face, it probably means the gift you bought was a little too sophisticated for them. Simply tell them that you have a special store where you buy all your gifts, and you'll exchange it for them. Then, when you bring the unwanted gift back to the carwash, buy something surefire — like some vanilla-scented car deodorizer or one of those cell phone holders with the plastic fingers.

Don't be surprised after the publication of this column if carwashes become more crowded than usual. But they'll still probably be less hectic than department stores and malls at this time of year. And they have an added bonus — you don't have to worry about finding a parking place.

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JWR contributor Lloyd Garver has written for many television shows, ranging from "Sesame Street" to "Family Ties" to "Frasier." He has also read many books, some of them in hardcover. Comment by clicking here. Visit his website by clicking here.


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© 2003, Lloyd Garver