December 19, 2002

What if?

by Chris Feeney

What if all that clutter in my old car isn't so bad after all? I finally made the jump into a new truck last month, but prior to that I have never owned a new car. I started out with a hand-me-down Toyota Tercel, a little two-door "rice-burner" as my friends called it. The great gas mileage was it's only real attribute, as it was given to me when my father got a new car. Let's just say we all know where I got my car cleaning skills from, because this vehicle was far from unpolluted. When it was time for the annual cleaning I simply opened up all the doors and took the hose to it. Well that was after I unloaded the three trash bags full of materials that had accumulated in the car over the year.

While in college I graduated up to my mother's castoff, the same white GMC blazer, which I first came to Memphis in. While it was in better shape to begin with, my habits had already been established and after my good intentions quickly vanished, the blazer too became a little cluttered from time to time. The steady progression continued and some 10 years after getting my driver's license I graduated to a relatively new Jeep. Once again I had plans to do better, to keep my car cleaner and all that good stuff. Of course my New Year's resolution is to lose 20 pounds (or more) every year and we all know that hasn't happened so you can guess how well my clean car bit lasted.

If I only valued my vehicles as much as I do the forest I would have been so much better off. You see, I don't litter. As a matter of fact I try to make it my practice that I bring a little more out of the woods than I took in. So if I go hunting or fishing, I definitely don't toss aside my soda bottle or other trash. Instead I bring it back to the car with me along with any other litter that I can snatch up from the ground. But I didn't practice that in my car. If I was going home from work and taking two or three items with me, it seemed that too often these papers, folders, etc. often were forgotten and left in the seat or on the dash. Add the bottled water that I had on the way to work, the extra sweatshirt that I really didn't need for the ball game, my binoculars and a couple spare shotgun shells that didn't get put away, and you have the start of the clutter. Get a couple weeks of busy time at the office and the pile grew with some materials picked up at the lumber yard for a home project that never got off the ground (probably cause the parts never got out of the car.) Toss in a couple magazines that you try to take with you but never had time to read, the kitchen plate that held your supper as you ran from one meeting to the next and half a dozen or more other odd pieces and you had a typical car contents list for me.

But I'm not simply confessing my sins. There may actually be some value in my ways. Did you hear about the man who crashed his car off a ravine in West Virginia earlier this month? He broke his hip and was unable to get out of the car. He was missing for nearly a week before searchers found him. He survived the ordeal by tearing the roof liner from the car and using it to cover himself. He burned papers and other debris in the car to also help to keep warm. Melted snow from outside the car kept him hydrated while he ate from the remnants of a peanut butter jar left in the car along with leftover sauce packets from Taco Bell.

The poor guy was in bad shape when they found him, but he survived because of his car clutter. Now if that had been me, it would have been like a week's vacation, well except for the broken hip of course. I would have had extra clothes enough to keep me sweating. There would have been newspapers, magazines and paperwork from the office to keep me entertained as well as serving as fuel for a fire. More than likely I would have had my laptop computer so I may even have been able to keep up with some of my work while away from the office. I definitely would have had a leftover bottle or two with water or some sort of soda. Food would have been the hardest part. Not because there didn't used to be some in my car, it would have just been a matter of finding anything still good enough to eat. But when I eventually would have run out of food, warmth and entertainment, I could have then used my cell phone to call for help.

Oh well, now that I have the new truck (which my wife has signed up on K & M Automotive's twice-monthly detailing list) I better be careful with my driving. If I was ever stranded in it I would definitely be in trouble. I don't think that minty fresh smell would help cure my hunger and I've already read the truck manual 10 times trying to figure out how to turn off the auto-locks so I would be in bad shape.

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