That New Car Smell Has Left My Minivan

I have a love/hate relationship with my minivan.

It’s a Toyota Sienna XLE, and I love that I can fit six kids in the car with me – twelve if they’re small and double buckle (Just kidding. Really). I love lots of cup holders and extra pockets to store things I forget about like contact lens cases even though I got LASIK a year ago. I love the leather interior, sunroof, and captain’s chairs in the middle row so if I’m chauffeuring grownups they don’t have to feel like 5-year olds bouncing on a school bus.

And the hate part of the relationship? My minivan is a 1998, which is misleading because I actually bought it in the summer of 1997 when my daughter Emily could still ride in her infant seat. This week she starts driver’s training. According to Wikipedia, the week I purchased my Sienna, Microsoft bought “a $150 million share of financially troubled Apple Computer.”

I’m just saying – it was a really long time ago.

My car also has an antique cassette tape deck, a CD player that doesn’t recognize disks made on a laptop, no iPod plug in, no GPS, no DVD player, and I have the humiliation of dropping my kindergartner off at school and having the volunteer valet stare at my sliding door, waiting for it to magically close on its own.

The best thing about my minivan is I haven’t had a car payment in almost 10 years. It’s ok to have the kids eat in my car and I don’t get freaky hysterical if they leave crumbs because that new car smell has been gone longer than Titanic – the 1997 2D version, not next week’s 3D release. 3D glasses won’t help the fact that my son spilled a sippy cup full of milk on the carpet last summer. Now my car probably smells like it too has been at the bottom of the ocean for a century.

I got rear ended a few years ago, and the driver was overjoyed, not only because I didn’t immediately cry “whiplash,” but that when I noticed the hole in my bumper, I sympathetically patted the poor driver on the shoulder. “My daughter just got Student of the Month and I think my new bumper sticker is just the right size to hide the dent.” My insurance company must love me.

There’s one thing that irks me the most about having an old car. Little by little, my beautiful leather driver’s seat has been tearing and wearing away until it now resembles some kind of angry punk rock attire. I can wash and wax the exterior. I can vacuum the interior and hang up a mini pine tree to make the car smell like Once Upon a Time’s fairy tale forest. But that shredded driver’s seat just screams: “Donate your used vehicle!”

I started searching for seat covers. While at a red light, I would peek in at other cars and study their seats. Not too hard, mind you. People really freak out if you look at them in their cars. And if they catch you staring, you can’t justify it by saying “I wasn’t looking at you, I was just admiring your seat covers” because that sounds like a really lame excuse, and they’re liable to report you to 1-800-CUT-SMOG just because you give them the heebie jeebies.

It’s a little bit easier to snoop inside cars while they’re parked. No one’s behind the wheel to freak out, but then pedestrians think you’re trying to break into the vehicle. Either way, it looks suspicious.

Anyway, snooping inside other vehicles proved to not be very productive. Frankly, there’s not a single seat cover I liked.

Do I really want a cheetah print? It would match my daughter’s bedspread, but it’s not like I’ll be parking my minivan in her bedroom to coordinate patterns.

A two-toned Neosupreme cover that is supposed to give my minivan a “sporty” look when it would more likely resemble a costume for some disco-era Superhero?

Camouflage? My “Republicans for Voldemort” bumper sticker should be a clear indication that I’m probably not a big NRA fan.

One of those Hawaiian slipcovers that looks like it belongs on a dune buggy?

Sheepskin? That one seems itchy and sweaty, and even if it is fake sheep skin, I would still keep imagining Mary’s Little Lamb following her to school one day and ending up in the slaughter house because it was against the rules.

My kids fondling my future seat covers

The only cover I really wanted was what I already had, but without the rips. A professional upholstery job would cost too much, so I started looking online for a half-assed substitute that didn’t look like a half-assed substitute.

I ended up finding a faux leather seat cover that could be custom made for my 1998 Toyota Sienna XLE. The package included covers for the two front seats, backs with built-in pockets, arm rests and head rests. But what I really needed was exactly that – just the but, or rather, butt. The rest of the seat parts were perfectly fine. Unfortunately, my special request couldn’t be accommodated. Apparently it would be like trying to order a Happy Meal when all you really want is the toy. Which is why every parent in America has a toy box full of plastic Scooby Doos and American landfills are full of uneaten Chicken McNuggets.

So now my butt sits on a non-torn imitation leather seat cover that is only about three shades lighter than the rest of the seat. I am content. And I am saving the passenger side seat cover for 15 years from now when my new current seat is torn to shreds from extra poundage, and Titanic is being re-released in 4D. That is, 4D Smell-O-Vision. After all, like my minivan, the ship will smell like it has been rotting at the bottom of the ocean for over a century.

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1 Comment

Filed under Financial Insecurity, Humor, Kids

One response to “That New Car Smell Has Left My Minivan

  1. I now feel like I know every detail of the inside of your car which is more than I know about my own, a 2000 Jeep Cherokee. You have a way of taking the reader into your world with scintillating comments and humorous asides. I can relate to all of your complaints but unlike you I just live with the inside as it is and hope no one peeks in the window. But, if they do, forewarned is fore-armed so I will now know why they are doing it.. Course, not hauling around six kids at a time makes mine look a bit less used. While loading groceries in my car at Wal-mart yesterday a lady parked next to me said, “I love your Jeep. It is so cool.” Instead of “Thank you” which I know I should have said, I responded, “It is also very old.” Tom told me later I should have asked what she’d pay me for it. On the plus side, having seen your van I never noticed one single flaw and would never have guessed it’s a 98. Is that the first sign of Alzheimers?

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