Tuesday, June 13, 2006

True Story About Me

Back in 1996 I worked at an unnamed car wash in Los Angeles. I had just gotten out of college and had gone to LA to make an attempt to get into the music business. My goal was to get into Radio Promotions and possibly A&R. I believed at the time and still believe I know a hit when I hear one before it ever comes out to the public, though I am not as keen or as "cutting edge" as I may have been in my early 20's. My ears really dig into poppy crap like the Beatles and Buddy Holly so I dig any song that follows that older format of style which you still hear in music today from bands like the Killers or Franz Ferdinand or even the now defunct Boxcar Racer featuring two of the dudes from Blink 182...

Oh yeah... the car wash.

But first a commercial break...

Gilbert's on Pico Blvd, near SMJC in Santa Monica is a pretty tasty hole in the wall Mexican Restaurant and I just thought about it while sitting here so I want to plug it. Gilbert's rules!!!

Ok... So like, I was one of those people who asked you to buy more expensive car washes than you want to pay for. I was good at it too. I could talk someone off of a $5 coupon up to a $30 wash in a matter of seconds. And I pumped gas to boot. I pumped gas for a living, now who can say that? It was balmy July day, midweek and we were pretty slow. This Dark Blue Chevy Tahoe pulls up and all the employees start smiling but started to run for cover for some reason. I walk up to the window of the front door of the car to start my sales pitch with the driver, only he wasn't there! The window rolls down and I see no one in the front seat where you'd typically see someone 99.9% of the time you looked in the front window.

I peaked my head in the window and looked towards the back seat and there he was. He was sitting in the front seat but it looked as if he was in the back seat. I didn't recognize him at first but then he quickly got off his cell phone and asked me to move back from the door. The door popped and out comes the biggest man I have ever seen in person: Shaquille O'Neal

Holy Crap I thought... I treated him like anybody else and asked what he was interested in today. "Wash it, man" he says. His Tahoe was so low it wouldn't fit on the conveyor so I asked if he'd like it hand washed for $25. "Cool," he says, "Where do I pay?" Now the enterprising man that I am I decided to step it up, "But Shaq, you do want it hand waxed too right?"
"How much?" He says... I say, "$50 total, no extra time". He takes a step back to think, he looked at his car and says, "Cool, you gonna shine the tires with that for free right?" Naturally we would but you gotta hand it to him and his bargaining style.

We had this huge sign at the wash that asked people stay at the wash while their car was being washed because we had no parking at all. Shaq was like, "I am going to lunch. I will be back in one and a half hours. I am going to leave to do this. I will come back, my car will be ready and you will have my keys in your hand because my car automatically locks. I have no door handles, and if my car doors lock with the keys in it, we cannot get in." He then shows me the trick buttons and asks me personal questions like my name and where I live and how long I have been at the car wash. He then points at the sign and says, "are we cool?" I just nod. He shakes my hand and says "Thanks, Steve"

What? You'd think I'd say no?

He leaves and we start to wash his car. What amazed me was, here is this guy... a natural celebrity not only for his height and his immense basketball skills and he just has signed a 100 plus million dollar contract with the Lakers and he has no entourage and he's walking right up a busy Sepulveda Blvd, alone by himself.

And one and a half hours later he comes back. I have his car pulled out in front of the wash and tell a few customers to wait and see who gets in. All he wants to do is pay inside. I take him in and he wants to wait in line. I ring him up and he peels off $100 bill from this wad of cash out of his pocket. It must be at least 5 or 6k in $100's. I give him his change and he begs me to keep it for myself. I tell him I'd give it to the guys who did the work. I hadn't done anything and then he gives me another $100 for them.

By now a small crowd of customers is waiting for him at his car. He asks for his keys and I joked and said they were in the car. This scared look comes acrossed his face because the doors are shut and he thinks we locked them in. I hold them up high to his face and say "Here ya go Shaq, see ya next week!!"

He then grabs me and says, "Ooooohh... ha ha ha ha, I love you Steve!" I'm like ok... smiling because I sorta tricked him. But know he ain't done.

"I love you, Steve!" he says again. He then proceeds to pick me up off the ground and toss me over his should, hugging me like a little rag doll. Everyone at the wash was in hysterics!!

He puts me down and says, "See you next week man..." He drives off. Then very next week and each week after that. He came in and got a wash, dropping nearly $200 every time. Always saying hi. He always got people's names and remembered them each visit. He signed autographes for anyone. Just a cool nice down to earth guy.

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