Clean Car, Clean Mind!


I love the feeling I have getting into my car after it has been through the carwash. For some reason, the sight of a well-vacuumed, immaculate interior, and a buffed, glossy-looking dashboard gives me the sense that all is right in my life and I have things under control. At least in my car. As a parent, these brief moments of feeling the illusion of control give me the power to carry on.

The truth is, there are times when things feel distinctly out of my control, and, in reality, they are out of my control much of the time, as they are for pretty much any other human being on the planet. However, since I am also a parent, the same sense of looming chaos is often exponentially multiplied, mostly because of the amount of details that must be remembered, coordinated, and orchestrated when one is raising a child. And if there is more than one child involved, well… just take a look inside of the car that transports more than one child on a regular basis and you’ll see what I mean. Often, the interior is a sheer cacophony of wrappers, spills, books, stickers, drawings, and random food items, all liberally decorated with a sprinkling of crumbs. If the family has a dog on top of it all, forget about it. If they offer you a ride in their car, I suggest you find a way to politely decline. Not only will the car be filled with the detritus of child rearing, it will be covered with hair, and smell really, really bad. Even worse, if their dog suffers from incontinence or any type of bowel disorder, it would only be fair to unsuspecting passengers if the car were simply incinerated, instead of being offered as anything resembling a viable means of transportation.

No. A nice clean car drives better. This is a scientifically proven fact. Well, it is in my mind, anyway. I guess I don’t really use the scientific method of unbiased, empirical observation when driving the car away from the carwash. The rosy glow of gladness I feel reflects off the glossy dash, and the world looks and feels cleaner and brighter, so therefore my car just drives better. Fact. Certainly the ride is more pleasant, for we humans are visual, sensual creatures at our very core, and no one can resist that new-car look and feel. One can even purchase new-car-smell air fresheners, and enjoy the sensation ad infinitum, so I am evidently not alone in appreciating the pleasure.

Perhaps we could all save millions of dollars per year that might otherwise be spent at therapists’ offices by simply washing our cars a little bit more often. Speaking from personal experience, I have noticed that when life seems to hang precariously in the balance, I experience a great sense of relief when the car is pristine. It is a small demonstration of the fact that order can be maintained in life, which is sometimes all that we need in order to feel…safe… or together. There is great confidence to be gained by being able to say to oneself, “Hey, I’ve got it together. My car is clean.”

After all, our cars bring us out into the world. In a way, they are our connection to the world at large, at least in this country. The way we keep them is a statement to others, sometimes even to those who never ride in them. I once had a property manager confess to me that he always walked prospective tenants to their cars to get a glimpse of how they were kept, which helped him decide whether or not they were the right tenants.

But back to me… And my car. Today, my car is blissfully clean, and a nice, long ride in its glorious cleanliness sounds like just the thing. The wide-open road to the city is beckoning in a most becoming way… and I must heed the call. For today, for this moment, at least, all feels right in the world.

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