The rolling garbage heap

I came to grips a long time ago with the fact that I’m not the kind of person who takes good care of her things. I don’t waterproof my boots or Scotchguard my furniture; the Dry Clean Only tag inside my shirts might as well just read “Wear Until Too Smelly Then Bury In Closet In Shame Forever.” For this reason, I never really spring for the expensive stuff—I had a Coach purse once that gave me extreme anxiety whenever I carried it, terrified that if I breathed on it the wrong way it would spontaneously disintegrate leaving behind a sad pile of sunglasses and Chick-Fil-A receipts that I would have to carry home in a Giant Eagle bag.

But no matter how frugal you are with your clothes and accessories, it’s basically impossible to cheap out on a car, so I have always tried to keep mine relatively tidy. I was never the type to spend hours detailing the inside with Q-Tips or anything, but I kept the dashboard clean, the carpets vacuumed. Sometimes I might have a dangly novelty air freshener in there to spruce the place up a bit. No one was ever super impressed by the inside of my car, but no one ever recoiled in horror.

Until I had kids.

Now, my car is basically a rolling garbage heap. There are gummies worked so deeply into the fibers of my floor mats that they have now officially logged more miles than the car’s previous owners. The floors are littered with French fries, Lego pieces, board books that literally no one ever wants to read until you dare to throw them away, at which point they are rescued from the donate pile and taken into the car to peruse once, and then you just escort them to and from your every destination for the rest of your life.  I tried adding a toy cubby between the car seats to hold it all, but that just served as a delightful dumping tool slash kooky hat.

To make matters worse, I made the rookie mistake of letting my children eat and drink in the car, leading to milk spills and the incorporeal funk that accompanies them after they inevitably spoil. In the summer months, my car routinely smells like the cow barn at the county fair, all earthy shit and rotten milk.

I try to fight back every few weeks, cleaning out all the old detritus and sadly wiping things down, but before I even manage to make it to the grocery store and back, a new unsharpened pencil, doll hat and copy of Ten Apples Up On Top materializes out of nowhere. Thankfully, the two car seats in the back mean I can basically never drive any other adults anywhere, but I live in fear of the impromptu work lunch where someone asks “can I just grab a ride with you?” NOT UNLESS YOU’RE WILLING TO SPEND TIME IN THE MOUTH OF HELL, LADY! Don’t mind the Goldfish crumbs.

When we finally get a new car, I’m thinking I’ll be smarter about it—no more food or drink, no more than one toy per rider. Or I may just ban the kids altogether and make them walk. I mean, we’re always getting on our kids to get more exercise, right? And besides, then maybe they’d finally stop wanting to bring that Rock Band drum set with them everywhere they went if they knew they had to carry it.