It’s really hard to have a “no food in the car” rule when you have kids, and I’ve never even tried to implement one. However, when I got my minivan last winter, I asked them to please be more mindful when they’re enjoying snacks to minimize, if not eliminate, pieces of those snacks ending up on the floor and on their booster seats and on their lap. For a while I went with “no chips or popcorn or other foods that are prone to shedding copious crumbs” policy, but eventually I threw the list of verboten edibles out the window because it turned out that no matter what the kids eat in the car, they find a way to make it messy. Still, every once in a while I offer up the, “Please don’t forget to do your best to avoid letting crumbs fall where we don’t want them,” reminder, to which one of the kids always adds as a follow-up, “Yeah, because we KNOW what can happen then!” while the others nod along solemnly in agreement, silently vowing to be careful with their bag of chips for at least the first three bites.
A few years ago we went to a corn maze at a pumpkin patch, and there were some ears of feed corn, kernels dried on the cobs, lying on the ground here and there. I thought, oh, what a great sensory activity it is for kids to remove the dried kernels from the cobs! How satisfying a project that is, and what a nice boost it’ll give those fine-motor skills! So I slipped three of them into my bag to bring home. I then made the mistake of leaving them on the front porch for a week, during which time a murder of errant crows made the discovery and ravaged the cobs, scattering kernels all over the front porch and making a totally terrific mess (birds are even less mannerly in their eating habits than children are!). I threw the remaining kernels in the grass and called it a win for our feathered friends.
Around this time I visited a semiannual children’s consignment sale and was waiting in line when I spotted a neighbor. I waved to her and she came over to say hello, mentioning that she had to go pick up a child and couldn’t wait in the checkout line, so she had to replace her finds and make a quick exit. I offered to buy the armful of items she was toting and bring them over to her that afternoon, and she agreed, thanking me and promising reimbursement. When I stopped by later on, she collected the goods and gave me a check for $30 to cover the expense. I put the check in my car, right there in a safe spot in the console, and planned to cash it next time I passed the bank.
A couple of weeks passed, and I finally thought to stop by the bank, but the check was nowhere to be found. It wasn’t where I was (almost) sure I’d put it, so I searched the entire front seat area, to no avail. I did another search a few days later but still turned up nothing. I didn’t know this neighbor very well and felt awkward about asking her to rewrite the check, so I just did nothing, thinking it wasn’t enough money to get worked up about and if her ledger showed a discrepancy, perhaps she’d ask me and I could explain my state of disorganization. Alternatively, maybe it would turn up on its own the way things have a tendency to do when you actively refrain from looking for them.
Another couple of weeks passed. It was winter now. One icy morning I cranked the defroster in the car to try to clear the windshield and was surprised when little bits of fluff began flying out of the vents along with the air like a little snowstorm inside my Suburban. A few pieces actually hit me in the face, and upon inspection it appeared to be little bits of tissue and fuzzy fibers of something synthetic. I knew this was weird, but that car was full of strangely inexplicable mannerisms and idiosyncrasies, and I preferred to pretend that this was an isolated event that wouldn’t recur because I didn’t want to deal with yet another annoyance. Of course, the issue persisted, and the kids thought it was hilarious, cackling with delight at the bits of detritus flying at my head on several occasions while I tried to drive over the next few days. One afternoon I noticed that the roll of paper towels I kept in the trunk appeared to have been nibbled, and that’s when I knew I needed to do something about this.
To be continued…