Opinion

Cleaning the family car: Worst chore ever?

Raisins, lollipop sticks, Bear Paws wrappers.... Yup, Ian Mendes decided to clean out the family car—and it's gross.

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Photo: iStockphoto

As the warm weather rolled into town, I decided to give the family vehicle a good spring cleaning at one of those car wash places.

If we don’t stay on top of things, our vehicle turns into a rolling compost bin on four wheels. I’m actually worried that if our car is parked at the end of the driveway, the garbage truck will mistake it for a massive green bin on collection day and just toss it with the rest of the junk.

Here’s a sampling of the things I found in the backseat area:
• multiple Bear Paws wrappers
• several raisins—even though our kids haven’t eaten raisins since 2011
• s single McDonald’s french fry—which could have been anywhere from one to six months old
• a few lollipop sticks
• two drink boxes that were half-full
• a few tiny marshmallows that looked like they came from a Lucky Charms box

This sounds like the menu for The Hungry Caterpillar’s week-long binge, but sadly, this is pretty much the backseat menu for our kids. And to top it all off, the whole area was covered in a fine orange dusting of crushed goldfish crackers. In fact, if you check our cabin air filter, I think it’s safe to say our family has been breathing in goldfish powder for the past several years.

When our kids were really little, it was actually easier to keep the car clean because all they would eat in the back seat were Cheerios. And since they were in their bucket car seats, most of the crumbs ended up there. A quick use of the DustBuster often solved the problem. But now, it’s like they try to find cracks and crevices to hide their wrappers. And things like Cheetos and Doritos leave orange fingerprints that make me desperate to come up with a new family policy banning any food ending in “os” from our car. (Yes, I’m looking at you too, Oreos.)

So on this day, I vacuumed out the car, washed out the mats, and gave the seats and dashboard a good wipe down. And then I uttered a phrase I have repeated many times in the past, but always seems to ring hollow: “No more eating is allowed in the car.” My kids burst out laughing, as if to say, “Yeah right, Dad. That’s a good one!” I half expected them to crack open a mini box of Smarties on the ride home from the car wash place just to prove their point.

It’s like the time we bought brand new leather sofas for our living room. We looked sternly at the kids and said, “Nobody is allowed to eat food on this couch.” About six weeks later, we were having popcorn on the couch—with buttery fingerprints being left all over the place and unpopped kernels finding their way between the sofa cushions. If someone cracked open a pomegranate on that couch today, I probably wouldn’t even think twice about it.

And I know the same thing is going to happen with our newly cleaned car. The next week or two will be fine, but pretty soon I know I’m going to smell something foul, and then I will realize that somebody had a yogurt drink in the back seat. And I will discover a curdled dairy drink hiding under the seat. I know this is how they discovered penicillin, but I’m pretty sure we’re not going to solve any of the world’s problems in the back seat of our car.

Follow along as Ottawa-based sports radio host Ian Mendes gets candid about raising daughters, Elissa and Lily, with his wife, Sonia. Read all of Ian’s The Good Sport posts and follow him on Twitter @ian_mendes.

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