Bucklesberry man trapped in car wash for 36 hours

By Jon Dawson

Although this column usually has a humorous slant, a trip to the car wash turned into a 36-hour ordeal for a Bucklesberry man last weekend.

Elmore Leonard, 89, of Echo Drive, Bucklesberry, told rescue personnel it all started last Friday when he mistakenly inserted a $100 bill into an automated payment machine at the Busted Hose Car Wash in La Grange.

“Apparently Mr. Leonard thought he was putting a $5 bill in the machine,” said Busted Hose Car Wash owner Art Mullins. “Over the years we’ve found pennies, bottle caps, Monopoly money, fingernail clippings, and flattened pieces of gum in these machines but never a $100 bill.”

Leonard says he realized the mistake instantly and tried to get change from the machine.

“I kicked it, hit it, cussed it and spit on it, but it wouldn’t give up nothin’,” Leonard said. “Usually, it takes them dang machines 20 minutes to take a brand-new, flat dollar bill with no wrinkles at all. That C-note I put in there looked like Larry King after a hot shower and it nearly ripped my hand off when it sucked it in.

“I could almost swear I heard that machine burp after it took it.”

Leonard said he was determined to get his money’s worth, so he drove his 1980 Impala into the car wash with the intent of receiving $100 worth of services.

“I hit the button for the $3 option, so that came out to 33 car warshes I was due,” Leonard said. “I even rolled the window down to let those powerful jets of water hit a few places on my person that I haven’t been able to reach in years.”

After the fourth wash cycle, Leonard said he dozed off.

“Them jets of water get downright soothin’ after a while,” Leonard said. “I put a Tanya Tucker 8-track tape in the stereo, rared the seat back and took an incredible nap.”

While Leonard was napping, the car wash’s stop mechanism malfunctioned.

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“I woke up between a wash and rinse cycle and everything was dark,” Leonard said. “Then the soapy water started up again and scared the oatmeal right out of me.”

As it turns out, Leonard had been asleep for five hours.

“I tried to call 911 on my cell phone but forgot the number,” Leonard said. “Luckily, I found part of a ham biscuit under the front seat. It looked to be a few months old, but I’d put my weekend teeth in that morning so I was able to gnaw on it a bit. When I got through with the biscuit, I rolled down the window a little bit during a rinse cycle to warsh it down.”

Finally at 3 a.m., emergency crews were able to shut the car wash down.

“I’ve never been so happy to see the five-o come up behind me,” Leonard said. “I tried to ditch my Lipitor and Viagra simply out of habit.”

The owners of the car wash apologized to Leonard, although he said he harbors no hard feelings.

“The way I figure it, I won’t need a car wash for at least three years,” Leonard said.

“It feels good to be ahead of the game.”

Jon Dawson’s books available at www.jondawson.com.

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