Dirty cars drive me crazy. I don’t really mind riding in other people’s dirty cars, mind you. I can understand how a busy person who spends half of their day in the car or a mother whose kids spend a few minutes here and there in her car would have a certain amount of dirt, clutter, and chaos. When it comes to my own car, however, just knowing that the clutter and crud is there makes me a little crazy. I’m not a mom, and until this job, I was not a person who spent much time in my car, so I managed to stay on top of everything but the tell-tale dusting of powdered sugar from the homemade bismarks that you can buy at certain gas stations in Maine. (Those things, especially the strawberry-rhubarb ones, are my kryptonite.)
The mess that comes from commuting and being in and out of my car all day is, surprisingly, not the problem. I can stay on top of that mess for the most part. What I have discovered, however, is that you don’t necessarily need to be raising children in order to have children impact the level of clutter in your car. My car reeks of Irish Spring soap because I’ve been lugging around the box of items the kids donated to Soldiers’ Angels, waiting in case any last minute donations come in. The carpet in the backseat is covered with clean cat litter because I was transporting the half-used bag from an archaeology project and it fell over. (Admittedly, not tying it into a bigger bag may have been poor planning on my part.) John always has to step lightly getting into the front seat because the floor is inevitably strewn with my shoes (I don’t have a pair compatible with both long stretches of driving and work with kids), planning materials (my bag is usually too full to latch shut), and library books.
My favorite evidence of my work at the moment is, of course, my moveable greenhouse. I just finished a unit on seeds and plants with the kids, in which we started some seeds and set up some experiments which, among other things, require a sunny spot for seeds to sprout. Running a fold-and-roll program, I don’t have a space with any windows at work to set plants in. Living on the north side of an apartment building, I don’t get much in the way of sun at home either. So I improvised and turned my car into a greenhouse. I lined a shallow cardboard box with a garbage bag and started cracking my windows on warm days so the plants wouldn’t get too fried.
It was, if I may say so, a brilliant idea…to a certain degree. The basil seedling I moved out there did get fried on the first day when it hadn’t occurred to me that the plants might like a bit a airflow. I’m afraid there’s no salvation for that poor little plant. For the experimental plantings and the morning glory that I started for myself, however, the car greenhouse has been a marvelous incubator. The packet warned me I would have to wait 7-21 days to see seedlings, but it only took about four for the little shoots to start rearing their surprisingly alien heads. Driving around with the plants stretching and yawning beside me has been a strangely wonderful experience.
I suppose any job where you work with messy projects is bound to be like that. The spilled cat litter and cloying soap smells may be high on the aggravation meter, but then there are the greenhouses that somehow make up for the other frustrations.