I’ve never been awarded a tiara for tidiness, but I admire the virtue in others, especially the “auto-crats,” who keep their cars immaculate inside and out. My father was one of those. He dusted the engine before we went to church on Sunday morning. He whisked the fabric seats for any invisible fleck of lint that had materialized overnight. Our car was tidy from trunk to transmission.
The Fastidious Car Owner
Like my father, today’s persnickety car owners put protective mats over the existing ones, keep an frequently-emptied trash container front and back, and spritz the interior with a floral scent—Daddy was fond of Irish heather. Upon leaving a parking lot, he would inspect our car for scrapes, bird droppings, or dust particles that might have floated upon the hood in his absence.
We have all know such drivers and are alert to their requirements: no drippy ice cream cones or sloppy tacos on board; no mud-packed shoes, no long-haired cats, and no wet bathing suits. Drooling pets and gum chewing children make them nervous.
The fussy driver is especially weather sensitive and prefers walking to taking a newly polished car out during a spring shower, when some spotting or splashing might occur. They find the hum of a well-tuned motor as soothing as a Mozart symphony; an orderly glove compartment brings a Zen-like harmony to their lives; and a bug-free windshield gives them a clearer view of the future—or, at least, a better look at oncoming traffic.
The Casual Car Owner
At the other end of the tidiness spectrum, are those who use their vehicle—regardless of its size—as if it were a mobile closet. The floor, seats and trunk are cluttered with shed clothing, beverage containers, potato chip bags, cellophane wrappers, and dog-eared magazines—enough to fill a dumpster. But the smell of fast food scraps, lingering in Styrofoam trays, annoys only finicky passengers, not the oblivious owner. The good news is that the car clutterer is never without coins for a parking meter, toll booth, or curbside panhandler. Usually a scan of the floor and the ashtray will turn up enough loose change for most occasions.
The owner of the closet-on-wheels is always apologetic to passengers. As you nestle into the front seat amid the debris and find room for your feet in the floor well, your driver begins flinging tee shirts, flip-fops, and dog toys to the already full backseat while thoughtfully issuing such warnings as, “You might want to keep that towel in the seat; the dog threw up last night.” Even so, I forgive the untidy habits of those, who have pets and/or kids, since they require a number of bulky accessories, such as child seats and dog cages. The comfort of an occasional passenger is not their primary concern.
The Air of Convertible Owners
I’m not as forgiving of convertible owners. They invariable show up at your house on the first day of spring—regardless of the weather—top down, hair tousled, radio blaring, and wearing a big smile and sunglasses. They invite you aboard with no more than a windshield to keep bugs, exhaust fumes, low-hanging limbs, or even snowflakes from your face.
The interior has been stripped of any protrusions or loose laundry that might diminish the sleek, aerodynamics look they’ve been waiting to display all winter. If a passenger notes that her allergies, new hairdo, or contact lens might suffer from exposure at highway speeds, the car owner reluctantly rolls up the top, but only if you’re over seventy-five or having trouble breathing.
Glamorizing Your Vehicle
On the car tidiness scale, I fall somewhere in the middle. Recently, when Edna got into my newly washed car, I complained about the dirt remaining in the door jams and tire rims. She suggested that I have my car “detailed.” It sounded expensive. She said it was, but that the detailing crew goes over your car, inside and out, cleaning every surface to a mirror sheen.
“With any luck at all, they’ll uncover enough items from beneath the seats to offset the cost of the work. I once won the sunglass lottery, when my detailer turned up three pairs of designer eyewear while cleaning my car.
“Of course, the down side is, that after having your car glamorized, you won’t want to take it out of the garage to fraternize with other vehicles,” she said. “You might even take up walking.”
I took Edna’s advice and had my car detailed, but I didn’t exactly hit the jackpot. During the deep cleaning, they found only 79 cents in loose change, a teething ring belonging to my granddaughter, who is now five, and a half dozen fossilized French fries. Edna said the fries were probably still edible, since fast food has a shelf life of two to three years.