Anyone who grew up watching Saturday Night Live in the nineties remembers Adam Sandler’s famous song, “Piece of Sh%t Car.” It was all about how broke down his ride was, with a cracked windshield and busted seat belt he had to tie into place.
I hum this song each time a friend gets in to carpool with me, because it breaks the ice on how completely disgusting the interior of my car is.
I’m fortunate that the main mechanics in my beat-to-hell 2011 Buick Enclave still function, but not much else does. That’s the price a vehicle pays when carting around four boys countless hours a day. The seat warmers are no more and there’s a reverse light no one can quite seem to replace. Almost every knob and dial has been busted off and the crumbs are so deep they’ve become a part of the car. The pieces of cosmetic plastic that hide the metal hardware under the actual seats have been ripped off by little, barbaric hands.
Each time my children step foot inside, it’s as if they’ve got a sledge hammer in one hand and a fist full of fruit snacks in the other, ready to demolish anything they see while their heads are on swivels.
There was one time I thought it would be safe to give my boys chocolate milkshakes in the car. It was the dead heat of summer and they had to run a million not so fun errands with me that day, think flooring store and the post office. They were less than pleased, but behaved, so on that sweaty arm pit stain of a July afternoon, I swung by the drive thru for a tasty, ice cold reward.
“Two hands people! Two hands!” I yelled as I pass them back.
Just as we pulled out of the parking lot, the inevitable happened. One dropped their shake in the way back row. While it plummeted to the car floor, it splashed up on the brother sitting to the left, causing him to blow a gasket. A ruckus then ensued, forcing the second milkshake to fly across the car and hit the window.
“For the love of all that’s holy, what the heck is going on back there?!” I yelled while trying to navigate merging onto the frontage road.
By the time we reached home 10 minutes later, it was like a Willy Wonka crime scene in my car, like Augustus Gloop himself had an epic binge up in the back of my Buick.
A disaster of this proportion can’t simply be cleaned with a wipe down and duster buster. No Ma'am. That milkshake had worked its way into every crack and crevasse in my vehicle, and in the hot Texas sun, that milk was about to get really rank, really fast.
We often joke that once you have kids, each family typically has one nice car, which belongs to Dad, and one trash can on wheels, also known as the Mom Wagon. Whether it’s Hatchimals that wind up in the wheel grooves of the middle row captain’s chair, or a juice box completely emptied into a cup holder that you don’t notice for a week, it’s a whole new level of grotesque.
Today’s moms are constantly on the go much more than our own mothers ever were. The worst thing my mom had to deal with was maybe a McDonald’s ice cream cone bumping the ceiling when she took a speed bump to fast. These days my children have no choice but to eat multiple meals and snacks in the car weekly. When we’re running late to school, they take muffins to go, slinging them all over my car like shot puts. And the last time we were stuck in traffic headed to hockey practice, someone thought it would be fun to smash McDonald’s BBQ sauce packets on the back seat. The aroma up in my car will never be the same, despite multiple efforts to clean it. Combine the smell of the sauce with stinky sneakers and you’ll understand why I drive with the windows down even in the rain.
One of my girlfriends found a half-eaten apple sauce pouch in her car, left for dead like road kill. It molded her car so badly even a detailing couldn’t get it out. Another left her window down a crack by accident and a squirrel came in and helped itself to all the car snacks and a half-zipped lunch box. That squirrel had the time of its furry life. And when the family returned to get back in their car, he was still busy eating. He and the mom equally scared one another, and he pounce right onto her chest, attempting to flee. Since that day, the squirrel and Sara have never been the same.
My trusty Enclave has now surpassed the 100,000-mile mark, and I’ve been toying with the idea of finally getting a new car. But each week when I take it for a wash and vacuum, I’m reminded why I should wait longer. Because about five miles after we’ve pulled out of the wash there’s some new mystery goo on the windows and a booger wiped on the back of the driver’s headrest. I’ve had to accept that for now I’ll spend half of my day shuffling kids around like Oscar the Grouch in my six-cylinder trash receptacle. And I’ll continue to give my steering wheel a high five daily, thanking my old car for tolerating the stank and still getting us where we need to go, despite the barf-worthy shape its in.