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What happened to My Car?


Aaron Atkinson

At age 17 I got my first car: a two-door, candy-apple-red, 1989 Cutlass Supreme. I will never forget it; it seems as though it was only yesterday. I spent countless Saturday mornings washing, vacuuming, and waxing my car. I never left anything inside that didn’t belong there when I exited. I even bought a car cover to keep the dust and bird droppings from degrading the shine. Once a month I would travel to Autozone and reload my air freshener, carpet deodorizer, wax, Armoral, and wet tire shine. I spent my entire summer’s earnings on a new tape player and CD changer. The car was not new, but to me, it was worth a million dollars.

Ten years later, a father of two, I sit in traffic after a long day of work. Once again there is an accident on US-131, and traffic is at a standstill. Growing more impatient by the minute, I look at my dashboard and notice what looks like an inch of snow: only this is not snow, it is dust! When I run my finger through it, I come up with enough dust to blow it in the air, the same way a child blows the fruit off a Dandelion. I then look at the missing piece of plastic on my hood, which had been pulled off my car at a car wash two years ago. “How come I have not taken care of this yet?” I think to myself. Ten years ago, this would have never been acceptable by any standard.

I turn my eyes to my passenger seat, where my briefcase is sitting on top of the mail I got from our mailbox three days ago. I am sure there is something under there I have been complaining about not receiving. On the passenger seat floor, I can barely see the mat because of the six CD cases, binders of printed work configuration documentation, Pop Tart wrappers (I have no idea how they got there), and what looks like a shoe from one of my daughter’s Brat dolls (I sit on a few of those from time to time).

If an automotive manufacturer needed to verify whether their customers actually used their door pockets, they would only need to take a look in my car. Being that I spend more time driving and less time caring for my car, I continue to peruse. I was surprised to find the checkbook I had been looking for the past few weeks, along with my favorite pen. I also found my favorite Flamenco guitarist CD case and four other CD cases that were squeezed into the pocket. I grabbed the CD cases and figured I would move them into my glove box, but when I clicked the handle and opened the glove box, it revealed my last six months’ worth of gas receipts and a hand-full of napkins that came spilling out

I look up to see whether traffic is moving, and then proceed to examine the back-seat area of my car. Because I never sit back there, I have no idea what I will find. Daejah, my oldest daughter, usually sits behind me on the driver side and Kyla, my youngest daughter, sits on the passenger side in her car seat. I look through the rear passenger-side as it is easier to view from the driver seat. I find unused diapers, baby toys, a blanket, and a couple of bottle lids on the floor. On the rear driver-side where Daejah normally sits, I find the tee-shirt I received from my aunt and uncle’s Jamaica cruise four months ago, and an Altiris polo shirt I received from a vendor meeting a few weeks earlier. My laptop case is also on the floor, and I wonder how Daejah managed to sit back there without complaining about foot room. As soon as I reach in the pocket, a horn behind me goes off, signaling that traffic has started moving again. I turn around and continue my drive to pick up my two little girls. It is not until four weeks later, when construction brings US-131 to a halt again, that I realize I have not done anything as far as cleaning my car since discovering the mess and clutter that had accumulated inside it. I think to myself, “How many times have I said, this weekend, I am going to make time to clean these things out of my car?”
I also wonder why Daejah never mentioned that her dance bag is in my car when she had dance every other day.

The more I think about the car I have now versus the 1989 Cutlass Supreme, it reminds me of how my life has become a conglomerate of tasks and responsibilities that continue to get added to my plate. Unlike that young seventeen-year-old Aaron that only had to worry about keeping his car clean, I have to tend to a career, a marriage, a family, an eight year-old daughter (Daejah) that has after-school activities five days a week, and a four-month-old (Kyla). Though I would love to be seventeen and carefree again, I now realize that my car (and the things in my car) represents all the responsibilities of adulthood I have taken on 10 years later.

Written: October 17, 2005

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