When we purchased our first family vehicle a few years ago, Tim and I set down a law-of-the-road: no food of any kind would ever be consumed in the car. This edict had been inspired by the mild trauma of having seen the inside of a friend’s trashed family Volvo (keeping in mind that we were still raising a family in the city at the time and so completely ignorant of what children were capable of while strapped in a car seat). Among other things, it looked like my friend’s children had macerated large handfuls of Goldfish and then rubbed the orange mash into the upholstery. There were unraveled fruit roll-ups melded into the floorboards, raisin residue smeared on the window, and enough Cheerios in every single nook and cranny to feed a hungry badger. I decided then and there that this situation would never happen to the Campion car. Our ride would be clean and crumb-free. A pristine chariot.
Flash forward to now. Not only are there about 10 empty water bottles rolling around under the seats, but a bag of jelly beans somehow got poured into the well area where the seat belts are wedged and have taken up permanent residence because no one can get to them(except the dog, who somehow hoovered them into his gullet like a Dirt Devil and then threw up on both my lap and the steering wheel while I was driving). I regularly find Gorilla Munch cereal EVERYWHERE, plus apple cores in the drink holders and discarded lollipop sticks from the bank or dry cleaner (it took me awhile to figure out why my kids love to go to both of those places, now I know) stuck to the back of the seat. Worst of all, it appears that I have become the worst offender.
Yes, I’m a secret car-snacker. The car-snack may as well become another course in my day, occurring somewhere between the blood sugar dip after lunch, running errands, and soccer/ballet/gymnastics pick-up. I took a good hard look at my current stash—which resides in the compartment between the driver and front passenger seats—and realized I had created a mini-pantry in my car. Or more accurately, I’ve created the mini-bar at a Hilton. Instead of maps, tire gauges, and other life-saving tools, the box contains the following inventory of edible items:
A box of Sour Patch Watermelon sour candies; peanut butter pretzel Mojo bars (they actually could save your life if your car was stuck for several days in a snow drift); a half-eaten brownie Clif bar; an unopened bottle of Starbucks mocha coffee drink; and several Trader Joe’s fruit leathers. The non-edible inventory includes the Annie soundtrack, eye drops (one of my secret fears is that one day I will rub out a dried up contact lens while driving on the highway and, half-blind, careen off the road with my family in the back seat); a water mist spray (this is actually the best thing ever on super hot days when your car interior reaches 116 degrees, it’s like a spa in your car); a head lamp (because you never know when there might be a global black-out or an invitation to go spelunking); all library cards and town pool ID cards (this is really the only Real Simple-esque tip that I got in my wheelhouse, to always leave all municipal cards and one blank check in your glove compartment); several varieties of lip balm, and decorative tape (I can’t tell you how often tape comes in handy when you’re out).
So what happened to the no-food in the car rule? Well, it’s a great rule, but I don’t know how anyone is able to enforce it. Are you? It didn’t take long for my car (which is the one that ferries the children) to become a roving buffet. Remember that scene in the animated movie for Charlotte’s Web, where Templeton the rat (voiced by Paul Lynde!) imagines a food bender at the fair? (HERE’s the scene if you’d like a trip down memory lane): “Will I find melon rinds and bits of hot dogs, cookie crumbs and rotten cotton candy?” Yes, Templeton, you will, in my Toyota 4Runner.
So what to do. Can I truly enforce a no-food rule when I myself hoard a variety of tasty snacks in my car? Do you do this as well? Should I just resign myself to having a messy car until the kids go to college and start trashing their own cars? Or is there some kind of remedy? I’d love to hear it. In the meantime, I will keep replenishing my secret stash of watermelon flavored Sourpatch candies and waiting for that spelunking invite.