The only thing more fun than cleaning out the fridge (year-old Velveeta, anyone?) is cleaning out my car. An exorcism would be more appropriate.
“Cleaning out the car” sounds like it would take 10 minutes. It doesn’t. It never will. First, you have to identify everything, and some of it looks unholy: Is that an apple core shaped like Jesse Helms? Why is there dog hair on the passenger seat when I don’t let our dog in my car? Wait—is that REALLY dog hair!?! (Turns out the long, frizzy strands were mine. And I owe my husband an apology.)
I’m not compulsive about car neatness, but I do clean it out. I can drive around with the flotsam and jetsam of daily life only so long before I freak out and pull up to a 75-cent vacuum kiosk. (The one I use most often has a sign that says, “Our vacuums really suck,” which I find hilarious.)
But before you can vacuum you must identify everything and then separate it into piles: trash, keep, hazardous waste, etc. For example, on my last go-round, this is what I found in the glove compartment: Dried-out nail polish, outdated bank deposit slips, mummified air freshener, oil change receipts, heartworm medicine, Sucrets, a pop-up container of small trash bags (ha! ha!), two overdue notices from the library and a graduation card for a friend who graduated two weeks ago.
In the actual body of the auto are old magazines, jumper cables, a Trader Joe’s grocery bag, a frayed dog leash, a Playmate cooler and what are either very small birds’ eggs or dried-out jelly beans.
You may be wondering why I haven’t mentioned washing my car. It’s because I don’t--Widdle takes care of that. Every six weeks or so he stalks around my Equinox, scanning every inch with narrowed eyes. He tut-tuts at the tires, squints at the windshield and scowls at the side-view mirrors. His verdict is always the same: “This is a disaster.”
Really? A car that doesn’t reflect the flecks in your irises is not a disaster. A disaster is when your AC unit explodes and the ceiling falls in, which I would know because it happened in my house 15 years ago. A non-gleaming vehicle is a shame, perhaps, but not a disaster.
My father was a car man. I remember him driving a Ford Fairlane, a Ford Galaxie, a Ford Mustang fastback and a Chevy Nova (nobody’s perfect.) But his pride and joy was a dilapidated, rusty 1932 Chevy roadster he lovingly restored and drove everywhere. People used to drive by, make a U-turn, pull up in the yard, knock on the door and offer to buy it. I rode many a mile on that gleaming black Chevy’s running boards, back before we knew such fun was child endangerment. (My parents also let us play with unvaccinated dogs and romp unsupervised in the woods. Can you imagine?)
My point about my dad is, he always told me to be sweet, get good grades, help with housework, avoid my mother’s cooking (sorry, Mom) and never shame the family. I managed to do most of those (“sweet” is still a tough sell). But not once did he say, “Don’t forget to wash your car every six weeks or your husband will get annoyed.”
Probably because he never thought I’d get married, but that’s a column for another day.
Julie R. Smith, who almost bought a Pinto in 1976, can be reached at email@example.com.