ast weekend I finally had my car washed. It had become too much of a disgrace to the courtyard in the block of flats where I live. Neighbours had admirably done it themselves with bucket and sponge during the various lockdowns, or availed themselves of the pressure hoses at a nearby petrol station. I went back to the recently reopened hand car wash a few streets away, joined the queue for an “outside only” and returned with a vehicle that no longer invites “clean me” inscriptions in the dust.
But this is not about cars. It’s about people, and work, and having my car washed and dried by hand, even by a team clearly very good at their job, would not be my first choice. Long ago, the same service would have been quicker and more convenient at a garage after buying petrol. For years now, though, automatic car washes have all but vanished from urban areas, to be replaced by human graft. Which seems a highly retrograde trend.
How can the sums possibly add up to the point where human power has displaced machine power in an industrialised country such as the UK? All right, so valet service was always there if you wanted your pride and joy cosseted, but it was an expensive niche. Now it’s the relatively inexpensive norm.