Dad would be proud of me, I thought, as I display my pride and possessions across the steaming hot city sidewalk.
He, the son of a car salesman, and me, the daughter of one, you’d presume I might know a lot about cars. And I do. As a child, I could recognize brands and models a mile away, and I still can. Those weekly trips to the sales lots across town left a weird hodgepodge of branding knowledge in me.
For that he’s proud.
But the twice-weekly trips to the car wash and vacuum station may have been for not. For me, that was overkill.
I grew up and started making my own choices. For me, that meant shitty cars and a shittier upkeep.
But today, I sucked it up. I sucked it all up.
Vacuum in hand, I became an adult at the service station, as I sucked off chewed gum, melted lollipops, mouldy cheese bits and goldfish crackers from the car’s floor mats, spread beside my unsuspecting vehicle.
Two toonies wouldn’t do it. I needed four. But slowly and surely, the job got done.
Slowly and surely, the family
closet car got vacuumed.
In the middle of the city, my country car sat in its state of shock, as I peeled piss stained shorts, eight spare socks and one winter boot from out of its hidden crevices.
I removed six coffee cups, two screws, 95 Hello Kitty stickers, two towels, a package of gummy worms, three juice pack straws and a bag of Chicago mix from the hidden lair that is beneath the driver and passenger’s seats, and walked it up and out of my life to the conveniently placed garbage dumpster on the opposite side of the gas station parking lot.
In the 30 degree heat, a full hour’s labour was committed to the ol’ girl, like never she has experienced in her entire life.
And as a Mercedes Benz came and went, a Jeep and then a Hummer, I stayed the course, feeding the booming vacuum tube like only a person who’s never prioritized this once ever and finally found the time, can.
Those other three clean freaks, with their raised brows, judging upper lip and plugged noses can go to hell for all I care.
Because yes, I started from the bottom. But now I’m here- and they have to accept me now, as I inch my way towards becoming a member of the clean car club, too.
I stood Queen over my white Civic castle, beside my two stained, cheerio encrusted car seats, lined up beside my three bulging bags of clothing, my kitchen bag of assorted lids, spoons and four mugs, and the garbage bag with some unclaimed q-tips, used wipes, a spare earring and nine elastics. My vacuum hose in hand, my pride out the window.
And it was a moment.
Because this here, right now, is my life. This here is the end result of a woman and mother with far too much other shit going on in her life to prioritize car hygiene, but one who managed to find the time.
I did this today A) because I love my dad and b) because I was getting sick of trying to figure out what the month-long mystery stench truly was. And if you’re wondering, of course it was the soiled cloth diaper placed conveniently in my glove compartment “so I wouldn’t forget.”
At any given time, a mom like me could survive a one to two day apocalypse from the confines of her car. And if you don’t relate, I probably wouldn’t get along with you.
Because in my car, we can spontaneously stop at the beach on our way home from the store. In my car, we can find a change of clothes for the park. In my car, though perhaps considered a biohazard to some, I can find a snack to satisfy the baby, find a pair of pyjamas for a night at grandma’s, and locate a bottle of bubbles for a classmate’s birthday party, with gift bag, tissue and all.
Though it’s certainly not an accepting space for those who like foot room, clean air or a moment of zen, in this car, we get shit done. We do lots of living. And that’s perhaps the more humbling part of this experience- because I can’t for the life of me figure out whether that makes it better or worse that we usually live like a pack of rats on acid.
Either way, today was a win, based on the stunning elastic jewelry I find on my right wrist, and the 35cents I’ve placed in my pocket. And for the most appreciated silent salute of recognition and solidarity from another woman in an exiting minivan as she pulled away from the pumps.
I finished up by baby wiping the dash down, like a boss, and turned around to take in my kingdom, in which all the nasty shit had been stowed and locked away in the dank and dark lair known as my trunk. (Don’t even get me going on the trunk).
I looked around, and for once saw what it might be like not to accustom my eyes to the filth that is children in a motor vehicle. And it felt pretty fuckin’ good.
As I drove off, speeding down Robie Street, I put the four windows down and nothing blew out. And for that, I was eternally grateful.
I most definitely showed up 15 minutes late for my next meeting, but that’s besides the point. Because today, I’d allow another human being in my vestibule who doesn’t share my DNA. Today, I wouldn’t be ashamed to pick up my dad, either. And that’s saying a lot.
As I sped 15 kilometres over the limit to my next destination, saying goodbye in my rearview mirror to my past months of filth in a service station’s dumpster, I reflect on how it feels to be me, as an adult, on this day.
My life, just like that intimate moment I shared with the vacuum tube, is two parts hot mess, one part poverty, and a sprinkle of gratification.
Of course, I called my dad to brag.
And as I lay my head down to sleep tonight, I smiled to myself with a stunning realization – who knew a trunk could hold so much.