Six months later, my humiliating experience at the car wash in my brand new electric car is as fresh as if it happened to me today.
It’s summer 2022. I roll up to the Brown Bear Car Wash tunnel in my Hyundai IONIQ-5. I’ve never owned a cool car before and I’m so excited that I’ve purchased a yearly car wash pass so it will always be clean and shiny.
As I approach the tunnel entrance the attendant flashes a sign to put my car into neutral. I reach between the seats to where the gear shift would be on my old Suabru and touch air. For half a second I wonder: “Can an electric car go into neutral?” That’s a dumb question but I don’t have time to analyze my stupidity. I’m still searching for the gear shift.
The car wash attendant taps on the window to help at the exact same moment a call from my daughter comes in through the media dashboard, confusing me further. “Mom?” she asks. “Are you there?”
“No!” I cry. “I’m not. End call!”
The Brown Bear employee knocks on my window. “Ma’am? Do you need help?”
I shake my head. By some miracle, I remember how to switch the car into neutral. It’s not a shift, it’s a button. I press the letter N. The emergency brake immediately turns on. I have no idea how to turn it off.
The attendant waves at me. I roll down the window. “It’s a new car,” I explain. “And my first electric one.” From the corner of my eye I see the media dashboard tell me that if I want to turn off the emergency parking brake I have to hit the OK button.
What the heck? Who’s ever heard of a car with an OK button? Where do I find it?
I locate the OK button on the steering wheel. The car lurches forward onto the conveyer belt.
“Roll up your window,” the attendant hollers.
I am finally moving through the car wash, with one finger glued to the OK button because it’s unclear if I can stop pushing it yet, and the other pushing the window button. Things seem to be going fine and I breathe a sigh of relief.
Then, near the end of the tunnel, the emergency brake turns back on even though I’m still pushing the OK button. I try to turn off the brake again and shift into drive but the wheel is completely locked. The automatic collision avoidance system has engaged.
I turn the car on and off and nothing happens. The terror of the person behind me rear ending me is real.
I yank on the steering wheel and finally unlock it, shift the car into drive, and cruise away, vowing to never wash the car again. Until next week, because stupid me bought that yearly car wash pass.
Jennifer Bardsley is the author of “Sweet Bliss,” “Good Catch” and more. Find her online on Instagram @jenniferbardsleyauthor, on Twitter @jennbardsley or on Facebook as Jennifer Bardsley Author. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.