We used to be able to look forward to the odd famine to spice things up a bit. We waited to see if the harvest would fail, bringing another winter of suffering. Or later there would be an adrenaline buzz on the long walk home from the factory: would little Timmy still be alive, or would the pox have taken him?
No more. Once we got used to the fact that the male population no longer needed to stand in a muddy hole in France writing poetry and that food was rationed only by how much cash you had in your wallet, there’s been no real sense of uncertainty. What have we had since? The three day week? For a long time I thought the three day week was some sort failed utopian experiment, but I’m told that people actually disliked it. The Cuban Missile Crisis had all the makings of a top quality disaster, but it’s just a bit too distant to really spend much time discussing down the pub. And nothing ever actually came of it.
We’ve tried pretty hard to offset the boredom. We tried having lots of sex and taking lots of drugs, solutions that many people still have time for. We tried having extreme hair cuts and mutilating our bodies with piercings, while listening to angry music. Good as far as it went, but let’s be honest, the drugs and the sex were winners. Next up we tried to earn as much money as possible, while trying equally hard not to notice that if everyone is as rich as you its no fun.
Once one’s chosen life style is normal it doesn’t really lend much drama to the general proceedings. Consequently we’re constantly inventing new lifestyles. The problem is the same as the one that designers of new cereals face: what new combination of honey, nut and sugar could possibly look novel? Just as Kellogg’s have moved towards adding marshmallow, the general population has had to move towards injecting their testicles with collagen until they swell up into a 2ft uni-bollock as a lifestyle choice (doctors are divided about which is more dangerous). Or paying to be put in a parcel and posted somewhere for (presumably) sexual pleasure. It’s called ‘crating’. I shit you not.
So in this spirit I went along to observe something called ‘buffing’. Somewhere on the western rim of London there is a very special car wash. While a thorough wash and wax is applied to your car you sit inside and check your transmission fluid — so to speak.
When I arrived, I wasn’t greeted by a bevy of camp homosexuals – the staff looked more the kind of people who work at any valeting service. There was an older, fatter guy and two young Asian blokes. Any sexual overtones sometimes associated with the car wash were put pay to by the location— a lean-to shed with a pressure washer in a dead end back street. A guy was just driving off but it was hard to tell if he had availed himself of the full service. I wasn’t going to flag him down and ask.
How do you get into that sort of work? Apparently the operation was set up without any seedy intentions. They spent a good couple of months getting mysteriously large tips (no pun intended) until they realised what was going on. Rather than try to stop the covert behaviour they realised that they were doing rather well.
‘After a while you just ignore it, I don’t even make a point of not looking now. We’ve had one guy who left after a while, partly because of it, but no-one has actually left in disgust,’ the manager of the firm told me.
Inevitably, they describe their customers as ‘everyday people’. It made me wonder if anyone I know is bored to the point of masturbating in front of strangers. Talking to one of the attendants, I got some sense of the popularity of their full wash. ‘We get mostly men but sometimes we’ve had women at it too. I think word must have got out, because sometimes people come in from quite a long way,’ he said.
Before I left they offered me a free wash: it was a quiet day and they were clearly proud of their work. As they started it occurred to me that this might be an invite to ‘oil my big end’.
I was sure that I could conceal my activities– I tried to look as though I had lost something in my lap. In a way, I felt as if I was conforming to the social convention here, not breaking it, and it’s even possible that not partaking could be considered rebuffing my host’s hospitality. I’m just doing this out of journalistic diligence, I reassured myself. After a while I became fixated by the stalk on my steering wheel that operates the windscreen wipers. It’s quite large – it also has some controls for the stereo on it to save you reaching that extra distance to the main unit. In an action that I now realise I’ve rehearsed in my head many times before I went down on this automotive sex stalk. Once properly lubed I gradually manoeuvred my expectant arsehole down towards it by kneeling on the passenger seat. To do this my face was pressed against the passenger side window, from where I could see someone doing my hubcaps with a tooth brush. He glanced at me and we shared an awkward moment.
It’s a process of psychological ramping: you start by convincing yourself that you can conceal your activities, but with each step you make your behaviour more obvious, thus making any further attempt at modesty increasingly pointless. By now I think they’d probably figured it out. My winking anus had not only turned on the stereo, but turned it up very loud. With each enthusiastic pelvic thrust a jet of windscreen wiper fluid spurted suggestively across the screen. The wipers themselves (front and rear) moved in a manner more appropriate for a fishing trawler in a severe Atlantic storm. Having realised that you are engaged in this ramping process, it makes no sense not to take it to its logical conclusion: I reached behind me for the dangling key fob and pressed the “panic” button, which is indeed what people started to do as the indicators and throbbing alarm sprang to life.
I ejaculated to the sounds of Jo Wiley with my head banging against the window, one knee in a loose change compartment, holding onto the rear view mirror that was now detached from the windscreen. My right leg could find no foothold and moved involuntarily like a dreaming dog. I quickly realised I had made a mistake.
Unwinding the window the minimum amount, I posted through all the paper money I had in my wallet. Then I fled.
Illustration by Joe Sumner