Tag Archives: minivan

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.

1 Comment

Filed under Financial Insecurity, Humor, Kids

There is Nothing Sexy About Washing My Filthy Minivan

Very unsexy latex gloves

I don’t consider myself to be particularly vain or superficial, but I do try to take pride in my appearance. I bathe regularly. I use deodorant. And I attempt to do the same for my car. After all, with the exception of sleeping or working, I spend a good chunk of my daily life behind the wheel of my automobile, and like myself, I try to keep it as attractive and sweet smelling as possible.

So once a month or so, I fork over a coupon and tip money to the hard-working gents at Studio City Hand Car Wash where they vacuum, scrub, rinse and buff my car to a dull shine. Then I insert a new two-dimensional evergreen around my rear view mirror so my vehicle can smell like an olfactory Big Sur for a day or two until the pine scent dissipates.

Unfortunately the economy has not been kind to me, and I’ve now resorted to washing my own car.

So you can guess that I might especially enjoy this summer’s Bad Teacher where I heard there was a scene in which Cameron Diaz works at a car wash fundraiser. There’s Something About Mary is one of my all-time favorite comedies, and I consider Cameron to be somewhat brighter than your typical 30-something movie bombshell. Besides studying the moves from the pros at the car wash, maybe Cameron could give me a few suggestions on how to wash a car.

It turns out that Cameron has only two things in common with the guys at Studio City Hand Car Wash. She too is working for tips, and she also washes cars by hand. And that is where the similarities end.

Even before my LASIK, it would be easy to see that Cameron Diaz is a wee more attractive than basically any living being who works at any car wash. Her shirt is knotted 6 inches above her belly button and she bumps and grinds in her ultra short shorts while washing a Corvette. Cameron sloshes the car (but mostly herself) with the soapy sponge and wrestles with the snake-like hose as it bursts in slow motion. It’s basically a lap dance for the high school dads and lesbian PE instructor with the car mercilessly used merely as a secondary prop. By the end of the day, Cameron has made enough tip money to pay for the new boob job she obviously doesn’t need.

The scene in Bad Teacher has very little resemblance to real life – particularly in my driveway. First of all, Cameron is unbelievably sexy, and as I’ve got a good decade or more on her, the best I can say is I look pretty good in clothes. Rather than hot pants and a clingy wet shirt, my car wash attire consists of an oversized top covered in paint and hair dye, boxer shorts, and a ball cap advertising my kid’s elementary school. To crush even the slightest expectation of sexiness, I also don a large pair of Playtex rubber gloves.

In Bad Teacher, as well as any Whitesnake video, the vehicles are always shiny new luxury cars – Corvettes, Ferraris, Jaguars. There’s not a minivan in sight, especially nothing that resembles my filthy 1998 kid mobile. Cameron lovingly strokes each car with her large soapy sponge, even though the vehicles already appear to be squeaky clean. You never find her manically scrubbing mud-crusted hubcaps or individually scratching off the hundreds of yellow insect gut splatters off the windshield.

Perhaps it ended up on the cutting room floor, but you don’t actually see Cameron cleaning the inside of any car. I imagine the filmmakers could have had a field day with Cameron maneuvering an enormous vacuum hose, bending over car seats, discovering secret incriminating artifacts lost by her paying customers.

In reality, there is absolutely nothing sexy about cleaning the inside of a minivan. There’s cereal crumbs and raisins embedded in the carpet, sand clinging to seat crevices, windows streaked with sticky juice and sun block, ashtrays overflowing with candy wrappers and snot-filled Kleenex, and the overpowering stench of overturned milk and coffee creamer. A pine tree scented ornament can mask it for a day or two, but by the end of the week you realize why a mom with a minivan has every reason to cry over spilled milk.

One day, I’d like to see a movie that shows the truth of how totally unsexy a driveway car wash really is. Maybe when Cameron’s pushing 50 she’ll do a Bad Teacher sequel: Bad Tenured Teacher. She’ll wear rubber gloves, a muumuu, and begrudgingly scrub the aftermath of carsickness and potty training from her dented minivan. The only slow motion shot will be of her sobbing and lamenting her terrible lot in life. But instead of being rated R, this movie would be rated G. And McDonald’s will have a Bad Tenured Teacher tie-in and hand out plastic vomit and poo with each Happy Meal.

Leave a comment

Filed under Humor

Road Trip With Kids – 40 Years Ago and Today

Road trips sure aren’t what they used to be.

In the early 1970’s, my family took a road trip to San Diego, Tucson, the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas. We were four kids, aged seven, eight, nine and 10, all sitting in the back seat of a four-door sedan. There may have been two safety belts, possibly three. If we did buckle up, at least two kids shared the lap belt.

This past week, I took two separate road trips with my children and a variety of other kids. They all not only had their own safety belt, but the youngest one was perched in a booster chair. Booster chair? That used to be for babies at the kitchen table. In a car, the youngest child just sat on the lap of an older sibling.

In 1972, the only manufactured sound came from whatever easy listening radio station my mom or stepfather tuned in to, and fortunately for the kids, we were out of range for most of them. Yet on my most recent trip, we used a variety of entertainment devices… simultaneously. I listened to the latest editions of NPR’s Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me downloaded on my iPod, my 4-year old played Angry Birds on my iPad, and my 10-year old and her cousins and friends each brought their own smart phones and spent the trip listening, chatting, playing or texting – often to each other even though they were an inch away from each other.  They watched a variety of DVDs on players with two video monitors – one for each row of seats. My son complained that he wanted to watch his own movie, so I set up Scooby Doo for him on my laptop. Isn’t technology truly amazing? Almost as amazing as today’s kids’ constant need for amusement.

On my childhood trip, we played In Grandmother’s suitcase (“In Grandmother’s suitcase I found an apple, a ball, a cat, a dog, and egg”… continuing through the alphabet) and I Spy. We announced to the entire car every time we spotted a beetle bug (AKA Volkswagon bug), and we sang camp songs and 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall several times. We would all face in one direction and draw pictures on each other’s backs and try to guess what they were. We argued a lot. The most prevalent conversation included the whiny sentence, “He/She is touching me!”

Although my minivan is 14 years old, it still includes many of the creature comforts that didn’t exist 40 years ago: dual-air conditioning, a dozen or so cup holders, arm rests, seats that tilt. When I was a kid, if we were allowed to eat or drink in the car, there was a guaranteed mess (usually melted chocolate), and the only leaning back we did was on one of our siblings (hence the “He/She’s touching me” chant). Air conditioning cooled the front of the car quickly. The back seat waited for the front vents to eventually waft a few feet or we just rolled down the back window and sang 99 Bottles even louder.

Navigation is downloaded on my Android, so no matter where I am, I know where I’m going. Years ago, this used to be accomplished by something called a map. I’m not sure if kids today would even know what N, S, E, W stands for. And forget about trying to fold it properly.

When I was a kid, it was a big deal to see the big plaster dinosaur on the I-10 or get a date shake at Santa Claus Lane. But multiple sequels of Jurassic Park have made the imitation dinosaur kind of cheesy-looking and my kids would definitely prefer a Slurpee at one of the 600 or more AM/PMs we pass on the Interstate to the now-obsolete date shake stand.

Some things never change though. There’s always a point in a road trip when a filthy roadside bathroom can’t come fast enough. However, with the invention of the Double Gulp they’re in even greater demand, and of course, much appreciated over a bush on the side of the road.

If given the choice, travel by car today is infinitely more pleasurable than 40 years ago, even if a speeding ticket and the rise in auto insurance now equals a monthly mortgage payment. The only thing I really miss is the first dozen or so bottles of 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall. It’s just not as fun teaching my kids the new politically correct version 99 Cans of Red Bull on the Wall.

Leave a comment

Filed under Humor, Parenting