Dear Friend, Sorry But You Can't Ride In My Car

by Angelica Shiels

Dear neighbor who recently made the innocent mistake of asking to ride along with me, in my car, to our mutual destination,

I apologize for my deafening and abrupt “NO.” I noticed that my intensity caused you to blink, rightfully bewildered.

I’m also sorry if I involuntarily placed my hand on your sternum and aggressively pushed you until you reached the driver’s seat of your own minivan. I can’t be sure I didn’t harm you; When I go into “panic mode,” I tend to instinctively dissociate.

You see, sweet neighbor, your impeccably arranged spice rack and alphabetized Lazy Susan clued me in. (Remember that time when you weren’t home and you gave me permission to rummage, unsupervised, through your cabinets?) You, and likely your husband and lovely school-age children who live in a world lacking paprika dust and syrup spills, would need a tetanus shot after inhaling the fumes brewing in my private spaces. We simply did not have time to review immunization records and/or fit you for a hazmat suit on our way to the pool, now did we?

You see, my socially-awkward outburst, while alarming at the time, was really in your best interest.

Yes, my vehicle contains the usual culprits well-known to parents of small children: Moldy French fries and petrified sour-patch-kids hide inside most of the far-too-narrow crevices. (I propose the tiny-handed elves who design these spaces at least throw a pair of chopsticks in the glove compartment.) But, not to brag or anything, our wheels also have a few other nasty surprises.

Like, for example, actual fingernails. The weekend before our trip to the pool, when my flailing octopus of a child fell asleep in the car, I understandably took that opportunity to clip his nails. Of course, while I was deeply engrossed in the task, my middle child took that opportunity to throw the little pile everywhere.

Also. Who knew that rotting fruit could smell like a wet Cocker Spaniel covered in Limburger? One little peach started to rot under the front seat, and, weeks after the peach was removed, one of my kids asked the other if he had taken off his shoe in front of the air-blower again.

Which reminds me: My boys do take off their sweaty shoes—in summer. All while the air blows directly on them and circulates through the vehicle.

Also, and I am not aiming for shock value, as this is truly what happens when you put three small boys side-by-side on one bench seat: My two youngest often entertain themselves by flicking their boogers on long car rides. I try to catch them (the boys, not the boogers), but I haven’t quite mastered the skill of effective parenting while not crashing into a tree.

I should add, my youngest has such raging, sudden-onset hanger, that restricting his eating in the car will result in two days of ringing in my ears. As an alternative to allowing him to eat, I suppose I could just submit to deafness. Ah, and, he loves bananas lately, which, incidentally, when smudged on the window next to him, look eerily similar to his boogers. Who knew?

And that brings me to the problem with the banana peels (and other trash). With my arms full of the fifty stuffed animals my little hoarders bring on every car ride, I generally overlook the sticky clumps of smooshed-together granola bars. There was one time when I decided to act like a good parent who holds her kids accountable for cleaning up their own messes. On that day, they all fell asleep, and after carrying them, one-by-one up to their beds, I chose to zone out on Facebook instead of scouring the car for potential rot. This sort of choice happens quite a bit, I have to admit.

In fact, maybe if I paid more attention to removing the decomposing contents of my vehicle after a drive, I would have been able to gracefully welcome you into my passenger seat on that fateful evening. But, instead, I have become accustomed to neglecting my vehicle in favor of hastily shuffling my children away from the street and screaming to put down the cicada shells before you go in the house! Note, our next home will have an attached garage.

Speaking of outdoor creatures, it is also true that if I paid more diligent attention to the cleanliness of my vehicle, I would not have recently come across the pile of dried worms in my oldest’s cup holder. I’d imagine, polite neighbor, that you would have pretended not to have seen the crusty black carcasses, but we both know the sight would have spoiled your appetite on our adult outing.

So, dear neighbor, again, I apologize for startling you instead of explaining myself as gently as I have in this letter. I hope you understand my firm stance on the matter. In the future feel free to propose an adventure in my vehicle. However, just make sure to give me a day or two’s notice.


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