x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

UAE car owners' eternal battle with sand presents an opportunity

The Air Bag While waiting in a car wash queue, Neil Vorano comes up with a business idea that would clean up in the capital.

Sometimes, I wish I wasn't so busy. Sometimes I wish I didn't have nice, new cars to test drive; I wish I didn't have the opportunity to talk with interesting people in the automotive world, or travel to spectacular locales to sample the latest in driving technology (all done, of course, simply for your perusing pleasure, dear readers).

No, sometimes I wish all I had to do was watch cartoons and go to the beach during the day, with my nights free to smoke shisha and meet with friends and do some lackadaisical shopping at one of the many malls in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

Because that would make queuing up for a car wash for an hour, as I did just recently, almost bearable.

If you own or hire a car in the UAE, you know the vicious circle; vehicles get filthy in a matter of days, and the recent rains have only added the element of mud, with splatters of thick, damp dirt soiling the appearance of rides all around town. It's not only aesthetically repelling, but municipalities also hand out heavy fines for those worst offenders - or worse, even towing them away.

And mine was filthy, just a few days ago; it needed a wash, without question. At least seven other people in Abu Dhabi felt the same about their cars, as I found turning into my local Adnoc station's line-up for its touchless car wash; but I knew from experience that moving on to another would usually find the same queues, so I stuck it out for that hour, waiting, grumbling, fidgeting and finishing a coffee that I stepped out for at the convenience store.

And that hour was just for the exterior; I couldn't wait any longer for the queue that was holding up the interior wipe-down. I was just too busy.

As are most people in the city. So how can you take an hour or more out of your day to get your car cleaned a couple times a week? I seriously wonder how that affects productivity in this country; with such a dusty atmosphere in the UAE, you'd think that car washes would be a flourishing business enterprise, with one at almost every corner. And yet, in Abu Dhabi, you'll find similar queues and frustrating waits at just about every Adnoc location at just about any time of day.

They could open at least 10 more in the city and not have to worry about business; in fact, I wish I had a bit of money to throw into opening one - I'd have no worries of making it all back in a short time. It's not as if the sand is just going to go away.

I suppose the more efficient alternative would be to go to one of these aforementioned malls and have your car washed there. It's a good system really, if you're just interested in an exterior clean, with uniform-clad gentlemen pushing carts and polishing your ride in about 20 minutes, a fair time less than an Adnoc station, and far less time than other speciality wash shops. It's especially handy if you already have something to do in the mall, but even if you don't, you could just walk into a coffee shop and while away the time.

Of course, then I would be afraid that my editor or, worse, my editor-in-chief, would walk by and see me sipping an espresso and reading the paper, and they'd invariably assume that I wasn't very busy; they'd wonder why I wasn't out driving nice, new cars, or talking with interesting people, or travelling to spectacular locales.

Sigh. It's a cruel, vicious circle. And a dirty one, at that.