First Person Singular

(Benjamin C. Tankersley)
Sunday, August 26, 2007

I can make more money in a good day cleaning and detailing cars than I can in a week's salary at work. I'm a geospatial analyst [by night], and most of my friends and family still can't believe I'm really doing this. The detailing was just going to be a side thing. Both jobs are all about layers. With geography, it's the earth and how everything fits into a certain space. Same with cars. The wheels, the tires, the seats, the vents, the cup holders -- they're all layers you have to dig around in.

The most gruesome thing I've come across was maggots. We were cleaning this lady's Range Rover, and right down in between the seats were all these maggots. Oh, man, it was gruesome. But you know what I found under all those maggots? An 18-karat rock. That ring must have cost at least $15,000, $20,000. The owner was like, "Oh, yeah, I lost this about four or five years ago." We didn't tell her about the maggots.

That's the one thing you learn: People don't want to hear how truly dirty their cars are. We use the best words out there to tell them it's messy, without ever saying messy. Messy car almost always equals messy house, messy life. That's one of the reasons I don't advertise in my own neighborhood. I really don't want to be in their business that way, digging around in their back seats.

I grew up in New York and have always been around cars. My first job, at 17, was parking cars. I was driving these Porsches and Ferraris all over town, and nothing was better than that. And I remember seeing how messy some of them were and thinking, If this were my car, I'd keep it spotless.

Interview by Amanda Long

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