I hate giving people a ride in my minivan. It’s not that I dislike conversation or mind the inconvenience. It’s not even because I despise driving a loser cruiser. I’ve long since given up on image, be it vehicular or fashion.
The reason I hate giving others a ride is because I’m embarrassed: Our van is laden with enough crumbs to batter an entire school of mercury-filled fish.
But last Friday, I had to transport two colleagues, both male, both parents with kids in their twenties, both owners of spotless vehicles. Friend A drives a Honda Accord, but had carpooled that morning. Friend B drives a Smart Car, which limits one’s friends.
So, I had to drive. We left the school, three teachers in suits going out to get noodles-in-a-box before conducting parent-teacher interviews. We walked quickly, conscious of time and a north wind.
As we approached the van, we were greeted by hieroglyphics. My twins, deprived of crafts, believe a dirty vehicle is a perfect canvas for their artistic abilities.
I threw open the sliding door, grabbed a car seat with two hands, and heaved it into the back. Then I frantically picked food off the seat. Most of this was to no avail. Crumbs, wrappers, dirt, and gravel covered every surface, making it a mobile compost heap. I believe some apple seeds had started to sprout.
I took the first of three defenses available to the guilty: blame. I blamed my kids. I blamed my husband (it was, after all, his job to clean the interior of vehicles). Silently, though, I blamed myself: what kind of parent lets children eat in a vehicle? What kind of person doesn’t clean her vehicle?
Then came the second defense of the guilty: displacement.
“Hey,” I joked with my colleagues, “did you remember your hazmat suit?”
Finally, the third defense of the guilty: admission.
“Sorry about the mess,” I said.
And then, like good friends do, they proceeded to tell me about the state of their own vehicles twenty years ago. I’m not sure if their stories were true or fabricated.
But it doesn’t even matter.
Those tales got us to our lunch destination and got me to a good place, beyond guilt.
I must visit that place more often.