Washing Cars & Wasting Time, by John C. Oliva.
Please allow me to address those starry-eyed young men and women out there who bought this book in the hopes that they could glean from these pages all of my secrets to breaking into the self-service car wash business. Sadly, the only advice I can share on that matter is to be born into it. Like John-John Kennedy or Hank Williams, Jr., winning the genetic lottery is the only way I know how to get this gig.
And while we are on the topic of crushing dreams, let me also offer this unsolicited advice to rising stars in the car wash biz: If you are expecting to see a lot of girls in bikinis getting all sudsed up while watching their sports cars, let me just warn you up front that it will likely happen less frequently than you have been led to believe.
Although he lives in Michigan now, John C. Oliva grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and worked at his family's business, the Speedee Car Wash, from when he was in high school until the end of college. He has a lot of stories to tell from those days, and that is what we get in Washing Cars & Wasting Time.
Have you ever been given the impromptu offer to buy a crossbow from a random stranger? Has your life ever been threatened over $1.75 in quarters? Can you say that you have ever been so bored that sifting through broken glass and cigarette butts constituted an accepted pastime? Those are just a sampling of the many adventures that I had while working as an attendant at Speedee Car Wash in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I also learned to never untie a plastic grocery bag that you find in the trash. I was taught that there is not as great of a distinction between a car wash and a pawnshop as most people may think and that there are fewer bikini-clad girls washing cars than Hollywood would have people believe. Despite all of the abrasive customers; cold, tiring winter hours; hot, boredom-filled, and even longer summer hours, I got some great stories to tell out of those years. And they are compiled here in Washing Cars & Wasting Time. Oh yeah . . . and we managed to wash a couple of cars amidst all of the chaos as well.
This book was not really what I thought it would be. At times it reads more like a blog, although overall I liked the "voice" throughout - it's more of a friend telling you some stories than a narrator, since the book is written in first-person from Oliva's point-of-view.
Some of the situations and quotes made me crack up, but there was a lot of technical stuff about the car wash that I wasn't really interested in. Oliva did say in one paragraph that he's "about to get nerdy, so skip this paragraph if you want," but some of the other paragraphs had no such warning.
My favorite chapter was "Professional Development," where he talks about a lot of the craziness that went on there and the pranks that the employees pulled. In one instance, a pizza place had almost the same exact phone number as the car wash, and people would call trying to order pizzas. At first the employees would tell them they had the wrong number, but when the same person would call back, they would pretend to take their orders or even try to mess with them - in one instance they asked the person if they had an oven, because the pizza place's oven wasn't working that day! I enjoyed reading about these, even if some were a little mean.
Anyone that's ever had a summer job or a job during in their youth can relate to this book, but you must be in the mood to go on a slow-paced, story-driven ride to enjoy it.
3 stars out of 5.
*Disclosure: I was provided with a copy of this book to review. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.
Thanks to the author, I have two copies of this book to give away. Enter via the Rafflecopter form below. Contest will end on Sunday, June 16th, at 11:59pm EST, and winners will be emailed on June 17th and have 24 hours to respond to my email, or an alternate winner will be chosen. U.S./Canada only, please.
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