Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Baby, You Can Clean My Car

When I was getting out of the car this morning I knocked over my purse and it spilled all over the floor of the van. As I was reaching behind the seat to gather up the quarters and dimes that constitute my life's savings, my hand brushed up against something dry and scaly and I pulled back and screamed a little, convinced that I just had my first ever snake encounter. Snakes! In A Car! You know, this movie is coming out, so it is entirely possible.

As I looked closer, though, I saw that it was in fact not a reptilian creature out to eat me whole, but a rather large, burnt french fry. On closer inspection I saw that it was being kept company by several other mummified french fries, a pencil, an unwrapped gumball and what appeared to be an old piece of hamburger bun that had fossilized into solid rock. Funny, but I think I see the face of the Virgin Mary in it, so I put it in my pocket for safekeeping.

I would lie and say that this was an anomaly, that I had fallen behind in my car maintenance and had let things go, just this once. But, in fact, this is the perpetual state of my neglected vehicle, as much a receptacle for trash and old food as it is a means of transportation. Look inside on any given day and you are likely to find: Food items in various states of decay, DVD's and DVD covers (not necessarily matching), cups with unrecognizable liquids in them, broken writing instruments, juice boxes advertising movies that left the theaters months ago, and copious quantities of Starbucks napkins and wooden stirring sticks (Should an emergency arise and someone needs to stir the hell out of their cappuccino.) There is an unidentifiable stain on the floor in the middle aisle - I suspect that the origins of Bird Flu, West Nile and several strains of hepatitis will eventually be traced back to organisms found in this very carpet.

With three rows of seats, there is ample opportunity for trash-accumulating. This and the fact the the girls have a tendency to sit in the back row where I hardly ever venture to do any housecleaning. I fully expect one day to discover a homeless man living back there, comfortably hunkered down between the pile of forgotten sweaters and that bag of clothes I've been meaning to drop off at Goodwill. He will berate me for driving around with such squalor and then thank me for all the half-drunk Jamba juices and spilled trail mix he's been able to live off of for the past two years.

As you can imagine, this doesn't always set well with Rigel. For most men, a dirty, messy car is an abomination, a crime that should be punishable by law. When we first bought the van he would clean it out occasionally for me, falling for my complaints that I was just too busy to be cleaning cars when I had children to raise, damnit. Lately he's given up, though, and will only attempt a minor purging on the weekends when he knows he'll actually have to set foot inside. On these occasions he can be seen making numerous trips back and forth between the house and the car filling and then emptying several grocery bags filled with trash and various other items that have accumulated and turned our seven-passenger vehicle into a four-seater. He usually does this stoically and silently, although he does stop occasionally to give me an exasperated look that says, "If you really loved me you'd throw your empty coffee cups away."

Rigel's birthday is coming up, and I am seriously thinking of surprising him on that day by waking up early and taking the car to be detailed, one of those deluxe jobs where they use a Q-tip to clean the radio buttons and soak all the interior fabrics in battery acid to get out all the ketchup stains. I think that this will be better than those concert tickets I was thinking of getting him, or that guitar even. When he sees the van in the driveway, clean and shiny and without a single Cheeto smashed into the armrest, I'm sure he'll cry real tears.

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  1. LMMFAO @ if being a burnt french fry. i almost just pissed on myself. lol

  2. The virgin mary -- ahahaha I see Jesus everytime I take a whiff of the leftover sippy cups - cripey.

    I think that your husband would be delighted. My huz would probably break down in tears if I ever did that. Problem is, I'm afraid to see what the hell is in my backseat.

  3. Dude! I think we drive the same van. Does your back row of seats have built in cupholders and compartments on the sides? My kids like to leave McDonald's cups with an inch of orange drink in them back there. After a few months, the orange drink eats through the bottom of the cups and then dries to an impossibly sticky mass.

    I've always wanted to get that detailing thing done. Your husband will probably cry real tears. Do it.

  4. Oh such a funny - oh so true - post! I am so glad I'm not the only one. I guess I just have friends with clean cars (perhaps I need new friends).

  5. We suffer from the same affliction in our house. Some days I'm so embarrassed by the contents of our back seat that I seriously consider getting tinted windows so passerbys at daycare don't get an eyefull as they pass by,

  6. I fully expect one day to discover a homeless man living back there, comfortably hunkered down between the pile of forgotten sweaters and that bag of clothes I've been meaning to drop off at Goodwill

    LOL! That's one scenario I hadn't thought up! At least we put our car space to good use. Men have spotless vehicles and for what? It's like owning an SUV and never taking it off road. Oh. I do that.

    Ok, never mind.

  7. I also laughed at the scene Monique quoted. And isn't it strange how old french fries don't mold but instead just...mummify?

    But you know what a dirty car means? Time to get a new car!!!

  8. I swear we are living parallel lives, right down to the silently exasperated husband. Only you'd have to add bags upon bags full of unsorted recyclable trash and a bottle with ancient formula that I can smell but can't seem to find. (although maybe it's just the trash I'm smelling...)

  9. Don't worry too much about the messy in your car. Just be glad you don't have a snake in it.

  10. we must be living with the same car.
    my husband got in mine the other day to exclaim, my god, did you leave a dirty diaper in back? as a matter a fact i did. i had to drive with the windows down, and air conditioner blasting to clear the air of stank. it's nothing to live on misc. snacks from the car seats when truly hungry.

  11. Just Linda wrote about this back in September -- it's gotta be a Universal Mom Truth or something. Have more than one kid? Then, you've got a minivan full of french fries. It's the law.

  12. I was actually thinking of a deluxe car detailing for Mike's birthday, too. yeah, I don't know what it is about guys and clean cars...Mike's is always super clean. I had mine brought down to where Mike's parents lived, and in it was a bunch of crap (and it's a small VW Golf). His Dad made the comment that it did in fact, look like a homeless person lived in it. I don't know why a homeless person would be into soccer and insurance manuals, but apparently they are.

  13. I found a half-eaten nugget in the van yesterday, and there are enough Cheerios rolling around back there to fill a bowl, I think. And it's sad but true, when I found the nugget the first thing I thought was, "Aw man, I would have eaten that."

  14. Future scientist will be able to understand how mankind in the early 21st century lived because of your cars.

  15. Save that Virgin Mary hamburger bun! Could be worth something on EBay. You never know.

    Sounds like you need your ride pimped, Sweatpants Mama!

  16. Ok It's just about been said a million times but I have to say it again, I think you stole my Van!!! It had better not be a light blue Dodge Caravan!! This is about an exact description of the van(our car) that my wife drives. I have to wonder how this works though, I drive an old used Ford Probe and she gets the brand new, albeit trashed, van. My car gets washed at the least every other week while the van(the one I have to make payments on) is continually thrashed. Yes I am 100% positive that the detailing job would go over as the perfect gift.

  17. "...and copious quantities of Starbucks napkins and wooden stirring sticks (Should an emergency arise and someone needs to stir the hell out of their cappuccino.)" -- ROFL! I'm having a cappuccino emergency, quick hand me a stir-stick!

    I get those same sad, sighing looks from my husband when he witnesses the trash receptacle that is our car. One beautiful thing is that when we go on long roadtrips we rent a vehicle so we don't have to clean up all the spilled crap as carefully. That's one reason we're sticking with a smaller car: it can only hold so much crap.

  18. Oh crap, that is my car to a T. Oh except that last weekend we found a half a Starbucks that was at least a week old. I never notice unless something smells. And I must have missed that one. I would stick with the concert tickets though. I think that when the cheetos and stir sticks were back the next day, he would wish he'd seen a concert.

  19. God, these comments are cracking me up.

    What is with us and our dirty cars, ladies?

    I say we rise up with our swine-liness and fly our freak flags!

    The men, they only WISH they could be as chill about dirt as us.

  20. Am I the only guy on here? Ok, ladies. I'll break it down for you.

    We like clean cars for several reasons. Mainly because cars are our little domains. Even if we're in minivans, we like to pretend we're driving Indy cars and Big Mac wrappers on the floor ruin the fantasy for us.

    Second, we don't understand why you can't keep the car clean. You're on us all the time about the dirty laundry on the bathroom floor, the leftover food in the sink, and the stack of Sports Illustrateds in the garage! Why can't we include the car in all that love of cleanliness?

    And lastly, in the back of our minds, we like clean cars because it's kind of the male equivalent of women getting dressed up when they go hang out with other women. You know what I'm talking about, right? Women always look their best when they're hanging out together. They put on their best shoes and carry their nicest handbags. Well, it's like that for us with our cars. When we hang out with the guys, we like keeping the car clean. It's bad enough we're driving mini-vans with car seats. The least we can do is show up with a clean car. I know. We're silly like that.

    Man, we really are from Mars and you guys really are from Venus!

  21. Us women will clean our houses obsessively (okay, most of us and most occasions) but our cars look like Superfund sites. Maybe we don't have any energy left after repeatedly putting the toilet paper roll back on the holder. I could be wrong... (I'm not gunning for you, MetroDad! Loved your comment.)

    Mine isn't a minivan (Jeep Grand Cherokee) but its pretty much exactly how you described right down to the solidified french fries and the coffee cups (Dunkin' Donuts, though... not Starbucks). There is just enough room for two dogs in the way back, one baby, and one driver. I'm thinking of moving up to the Suburban just so I can fit a passenger!

  22. Have you been borrowing my car?

    Only thing is, my husband's is just as bad as mine, so ti works out okay. :)

  23. The wooden sticks can also be used in times of need to create a small, but powerful stick fire. You might need to re-heat those french fries one day.

    You need to move where it is cold. We pretend that these are all "survival materials"

    And if you did this, Rigel would be convinced that the homeless man had killed you and was wearing your skin.

  24. 1.) I can't believe I'm not the only one who's been driving around with a bag full of clothes I've been meaning to donate to Goodwill. They are all surely out of fashion now.
    2.) I typically don't offer rides to people especially if they are wearing dark clothing because they will emerge covered with white Minnie fur (I manage to keep the driver's seat free of that.)
    2.) I don't have children. What is my excuse?

  25. geesh!!!!

    How can someone who is still in mourning over her goldfish ( I know it wasn't hers but did anybody really think sweatpants mom wasn't torn up over the loss?- afterall she is the one that fed the little guy ( once a month counts as feeding!)

    Anyway - how can she be held up to ridicule (even if its her own) for not keeping up with the minivan chores?!
    Someone give her a day off - you listenin' hubby??
    take her out for spa day and a coffee and a drink and dancing and karaoke -

    Do it !
    then wait 6 months or so and I bet you notice a world of difference in regards to the Vans appearance - if not lather and repeat...
    that work for you Sweatpants mom?

  26. Funny how many of us have the same stuff lurking in our back seats. And thank you, MetroDad, for explaining the male view on this. I could never understand why my husband, who is a complete clutter bug around the house, insists on having a spotless car.

  27. Three cheers for Metro Dad, I was feelin' a bit lonely here on the male point of view, could not have said it better myself!!!

  28. several years ago, my husband and i bought a used suburban that we were told was only "driven to the supermarket by a soccer mom" in its young life. the divots in the upholstery from the 2 child seats were still fresh even. darn tootin if it didn't have the requisite french fry under the seat & the spilled coke in the air vent! and to think i thought they should have done a better detailing job. i now know — thanks to your highly educational blog — that we were just fortunate there were no snakes, dirty diapers, or starbucks tinderbox landfill. thanks for shakin' up my world view!

    p.s. is it that obvious i have no offspring?

  29. I think I gave birth to Metrodad's son. I think my son feels that if he scrubs all the 98 Chevy Venture Extended Van cells away, he'll reveal the Subaru Impreza WRX STI that is surely waiting underneath!

  30. Elizabeth: We do have cup holders back there but I haven’t seen them in awhile. They seem to be grown over with a fuzzy, green organism.

    Jen: Perhaps the homeless in Boston are a different breed. Here they would be into the soccer ball but definitely not the insurance manual, because you know nobody in L.A. reads.

    Mama_t: I’d save that nugget, lady. Toast it, and see if an image of the Virgin Mary appears.

    Colorado: It’s the unspoken rule: Lady always gets new and shiny.

    MetroDad: Have you been talking to my husband?

    Dawn: There was a story last year about a woman who accidentally drove her car off the road, and her and her five year old daughter survived for four days on the Gatorade and Cup o’ Noodle they had in the car. I have the story memorized because I tell it to my husband around three times a week.

    Teacher: I think the question on everyone’s minds is: What is ‘Minnie fur?’

    Anonymous1: It all works for me except for the karaoke. I think my singing is what killed Little Guppy.

    Anonymous2: The lesson learned: Never buy anything, especially a car, from a soccer mom.

  31. You are too funny. I think the car detailing is a great idea. I once got that done for my Mom. The guy doing it actually told me he gagged when he got to the back seat. I'm assuming he didn't have kids. :)

  32. OH MY GOD! i cleaned out my minivan yesterday and amongst 2 ralphs bags full of trash, a shriveled up apple that began the size of a tennis ball and was found the size of a cherry tomato, and clothes for the goodwill (i'm right there with ya), i recovered 18 of my daughter's socks, none of which were a match- TOP THAT!

    and as a side note: my husband was so happy i made such an effort, he ran out with a vaccuum and finished the job for me. that's what i'm talkin' about ladies!

  33. This post is SO our car! We've now got not only fossil french fries but thanks to our child, old chunks of other stuff he upchucked in the car that my hubby never cleaned up. Ughhh.

    I love your blog!

  34. "It's bad enough we're driving mini-vans with car seats. The least we can do is show up with a clean car."

    OMG, MetroDad. I now understand why DH wants the van clean but doesn't seem to care as much about his Accord.


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