I cleaned out my car today.
Yes, I’m okay.
Thanks for asking.
I didn’t want to do it, but it’s been windy. Every time I open the door, the wind picks up the trash and swirls it around the inside of my car like Disney magic swirls around a princess. Then the wind blows the trash right out the door and across the parking lot.
No pumpkin coach appears sparkling in glitter. It’s just trash blowing around a parking lot without a care in this over-polluted world. Never mind this is a Class 2 misdemeanor; it’s embarrassing. Also, my kids keep slipping on papers and discarded wrappers. Someone’s going to get a head injury and it’s a 9-1-1 call I’m not interested in making.
“What’s your emergency?”
“My daughter slipped out of the car and hit her head on the pavement?”
“What did she slip on?”
“Um. A Dunkin’ Donuts bag.”
“A Dunkin’ Donuts bag?!”
“Actually, five; they were kind of thrown in the same area.”
Last week when I dropped my kids off at school, a woman across the parking lot was idly standing by the trunk of her car for some reason. I opened the door and the trash came to life. I was able to block some of it with my hand and deflect it back into the car and at my children who giggled with the same fervor as they do when someone burps. Despite my mediocre efforts a fruit snack packet escaped and whisked across the parking lot too fast for me to catch.
It rested on the woman’s sandal-clad foot.
She looked up from her phone and frowned at her foot. Then she looked around for the offender and settled her eyes on me.
I didn’t do it on purpose.
I don’t make it a habit of letting random pieces of trash out of my car to wreck havoc on designer’s chic, upscale women’s sandals. I understand if you pay $198 for a pair of flip-flops you don’t want trash on them. Not even Welch’s snack bag trash, despite the fact that they are, by far, the best fruit snacks on the market.
She continued to look at me as I herded my kids over to the crosswalk. I guess I should have apologized, cracked a joke, or at least offered to chase the baggie across the parking lot as it glided carelessly with the wind. I could’ve pretended to be proactive about the whole situation. But I wasn’t. Who wears flip-flops on a cold fall morning with a 15-mile-per-hour wind, anyway?
The easiest solution for cleaning my car would be to set it on fire, but that’s not practical. Think of the insurance premiums after a stunt like that. After I make bail, then I’d have to do community service, check in with my probation officer regularly, and whatever. I don’t have time for that. Besides, I need the vehicle. I already cannot get everyone up, fed, and ready on time to leave in my own vehicle. Taking the bus would be like trying to ride a surfboard to Mars using a blowtorch and one of those little plastic fans they sell at Baseball games on hot days.
The only time my car was ever clean after I became a parent was when we bought it, because cleaning my car is very low on the list of things to do. The only time it gets cleaned is when we have people visiting, because you can’t pick up someone from the airport and shamelessly ask them to just push the pile of trash over to make room for their feet. Although I would be lying if I said I’ve never done this.
Keeping a car clean with small kids is like standing in a muddy field trying to clean off a pig in a rainstorm. I have to set rules and enforce them. Even with designated car trash cans, no one uses them. It’s like I bought them for decorations. My kids kick them over and the trash litters the floors like confetti hitting Times Square on New Year’s Eve.
Recently, a mouse broke in and was eating the discarded Goldfish crackers out of the backseat cushions. I never saw him but the tiny shreds of paper spoke for him. He chewed through one of the pockets in my favorite fleece jacket that had been casually tossed onto the passenger floor over a sixth Dunkin’ Donuts bag. I couldn’t blame him. He couldn’t pick the jacket up, and who doesn’t love sprinkles with crusted glaze still attached?
It was my fault.
When I went to Confession, I told the priest it had been awhile since I was there last.
“Your soul, it’s like a dirty car.”
Boy, was he was right.
“If you don’t clean up the little pieces one at a time, before you know it, the car is a mess, you know? It happens so fast and cleaning becomes a daunting task that takes time.”
“Yes, Father, I know. I have three kids.”
“Ahhhh, so your car probably is in the same shape your soul is in.”
So I had to clean the car.
Maybe I’d find my soul in the process. It was probably stuck to one of the floor mats with gum and a partially melted Dum Dum. I would have never seen it because, one, you can’t see your soul, and two, even if you could, there are at least four sets of seasonal clothing draping the floors of my vehicle.
Three and a half hours, and four “accidental” walk-by-hose-sprayings from my 3-year-old later, my car was finally clean.
Not a spec in it.
Washed, cleaned, vacuumed, dusted.
It felt good.
I felt like a brand-new person who, despite knowing the truth, looked the part of a responsible and tidy car owner.
How long will it stay clean?
In the words of Asia, “Only Time Will Tell.”
Until then, I can safely and confidently open the car doors despite the unpredictable winds of the High Plains. For now, there are nor more imminent dangers. The car is no longer a biohazard. The mouse has vacated the premises and seeks high cholesterol indulgences elsewhere.
When I open the car doors, nothing blows out. I’m not inadvertently accessorizing sandal-clad people who are loitering in the parking lot. Although, Welch’s snack bags aren’t so bad. They are, by far, the best fruit snacks on the market.
Copyright 2019 Christina Antus