Trials of buying the family car

It seems we can ignore this fact no longer: It’s time to sell
the family car.
It seems we can ignore this fact no longer: It’s time to sell the family car.

Now, if you’ve never tried selling a car, let me just say that it’s not as simple as you’d think. I mean, you can’t just drive the car down to the corner lot and toss up a sign and go on about your business. It can be a very delicate and time-consuming process.

Because first, you have to get it looking acceptable for public viewing.

So on Saturday morning, I enticed the kids to help by corralling them onto the driveway along with the hose and buckets. Of course, this brought up a whole new set of problems, the main one being that unwrapping the hose is the universal cue for kids to magically disappear, only to reappear minutes later dressed in swim suits and wielding inflatable water toys.

Sure, I could’ve tried to ask something ridiculous like, “Hey, how about helping me wash the car?” But I would be a naïf to think that something this simple would work with my family. So, to the surprise of absolutely no one, I washed it myself.

And I would’ve been OK with it, really. However, just when things were coming along nicely, I did something that you should never ever do alone, or without being under the influence of prescription medication: I removed the car seat.

You always hear warnings about this kind of thing, but you never really believe it. I found (and I’m not kidding here): someone’s wet sock, a key, a handful of french fries having a bad hair day, an art project made out of jelly beans, several pieces of gum dating back to the Reagan years and four mystery wads of Kleenex containing something yucky that had to be spit out.

Let me just say that it’s times like this that make you wonder just where, exactly, you went wrong. I mean, back when the car was new, there used to be strict rules to follow. Like, for instance: no eating or drinking, no kicking the seat in front of you, no shoes on the dashboard, no yelling, no spitting, no strapping the cat into the front seat, no entering until you’ve been patted down for anything that looks like, once was, or somehow could be, turned into a crumb. And before even thinking about getting into the back seat, you had to sign a responsibly statement and have at least three personal references.

We all know these things never last. But the freaky thing is the change happens so slowly that you hardly even notice.

First, there’s a harmless cheese stick. Then come a few contraband grapes. After that, you move up to Fruit Roll-Ups and, what the heck, raisins. From there, it isn’t such a big leap to baggies full of Cheerios and goldfish crackers. Before you know it, entire Cub Scout troops are sitting in the back sit singing bawdy playground songs and swigging juice boxes. So, really, you can see how these things happen.

And the freaky thing is, you hardly notice how far you’ve gone until one day – The Day of Reckoning, I call it – you have to make the car acceptable for public-viewing. And by then, you guessed it, it’s too late.

However, it’s not all bad news. At least on the Day of Reckoning, you usually find some real treasures. As luck would have it, I found a gold earring, a pack of Lifesavers and over three dollars in pennies. And, oh yeah, a piece from the old car vacuum.

So what about the rest of the stuff? Well, I’d like to say I got rid of it once and for all, but instead I did what any desperate and slightly weary parent would do. I shoved everything deeper into the cushions and strapped the car seat back in.

Then I got into my bathing suit and borrowed my daughter’s swim fins. Sometimes, that’s the best way.