"The gantry retreated to its start position. The machine switched itself out of circuit. The rollers hung limply in front of the clear glass of the windshield. The last of the detergent-stained water ran through the darkness to the drainage vents. Sucking at the air through his scarred lips, Vaughan lay back exhausted, staring at Catherine with confused eyes...I wanted to reach out and care for them, helping them into their next sexual act...celebrating in this sexual act the marriage of their bodies with this benign technology." (162)
The entire car wash scene, which occurs for many pages, is one of the most striking scenes to me in Crash. It is in this scene where the reader truly understands that the characters have unconventional emotional attachments to sex. Granted, becoming aroused by car crashes is far from conventional, my focus here is more on James and Catherine and their sex and emotional lives. From the start, we (and they) know that each of them has had affairs, making their relationship abnormal to begin with. This scene in the car wash is significantly deviant from societal norms - James watches his wife have violent sex with another man. Why? James seems to be fascinated by their sex acts because the positions Vaughan puts Catherine in relate to the crash victims, but James is also fascinated with Vaughan's body that has been marked by many car crashes.
It appears though, that the most important relationship in during this car wash is not Catherine and Vaughan, nor James watching Catherine and Vaughan, but the sex act in conjunction with the large mechanized car wash as well as the reenactment of the crash victims positions. This connection of sex and technology can be seen in the sexual language mixed in with descriptions of the heavy carwash machinery. Phrases such as "retreated to its start position," "out of circuit," "hung limply," "detergent-stained water ran through the darkness," connect machinery with Catherine and Vaughan having sex. James is so mesmerized by their connection to technology that he continues inserting coins to make the car wash keep going.
Sex is still an emotional event, but it is no longer a shared emotional event between two people. While two people are still needed, there is no emotional connection between them. The connection occurs between each person and a car, which represents technology. It is through these fascinations that each character becomes more embedded in themselves, constantly seeking ways to improve their sexual experiences.