So let me tell you about last week.
On Monday I decided to clean out the car. Not ordinarily something I'd bother to tell you about, but it is relevant to something that happened the next day and the act of cleaning was pretty epic as far as acts in my life go these days. We have been operating for a number of years under the principle that the shittier we let our car get inside, the less likely it will be that anyone will ever want to steal it. In addition to the sort of food mess and smell I've written about before, on this occasion there was so much dog hair caked to every surface it looked we'd paid for the deluxe Wampa-hide seat package. Last week the dog rolled around in something (hopefully not somebody) dead while we were hiking on Belle Isle and the stink of it filled the car on the way home and I was like, "Wow, that smell of death really covers up the fermenting Cheerio mash under the car seats!"
I spent more than two hours vacuuming the car out. We do not have a garage so I had to pester half our neighbors to borrow enough extension cords to get our vac to reach our parking spot. I even used a string of Christmas lights. It was very festive. When I finally picked up the kid from playschool that day she climbed into her (freshly laundered) car seat and asked, disgusted, "What happened to our car?" On the way home, I went through a car wash for the first time in years and quickly remembered why I hadn't: both children screamed like we were being slowly propelled through the digestive tract of a compact-sedan-eating squid. But the car looked nice for the first time in years.
The next morning my wife totaled it.
Now I don't believe in jinxes. But a week before I'd been grumbling about how our insurance rates hadn't decreased despite more than a decade without incident. This, combined with the overzealous cleaning and washing, seems to have tempted the fates to micromanage such a display of hubris. Of course, my first reaction was to feel incredibly lucky: both children had been in the car and nobody was hurt. Because we have only this one car, my wife had to call a neighbor to come pick up the kids and bring them to me. She had been so busy avoiding me by talking to the police, our insurer, and the rental car guy that I heard narration of the accident itself first from my children, ages five and two:
"There was a big crash and then there was lots of smoke."
"White smoke! Lotsa police guys!"
"Part of the car fell off."
"It was scary!"
"They took our car away on a truck. . ."
"A big truck!"
They continued to describe what sounded like the climactic scene of a Michael Bay film; all that was missing was our car turning into an intergalactic robot and destroying an entire SWAT team with a wrist-mounted particle blaster. It turns out my wife was parking and a valet whipped around a corner and tore off the fender, deploying the airbags and doing just enough damage to make repair costs exceed the 10-year-old vehicle's value. I called my dad, an auto-body repairman across the state, to complain about the cost of repairing a single fender. He replied, "Hey, we gotta eat too, just like lawyers." Touche.
* * * * *
My wife finally returned with a rented Chevy and a hangdog look. Inside the Chevy I detected the gossamer threads of old menthol smoke and found a hoary little Flamin' Hot Cheeto Puff in the cup holder. We spent the rest of the week going over our finances and preparing to drive the stinky Chevy to the 2010 Tulip Time Festival (more on that later this week). The moral of this story, if there even is one, is never clean anything. The guys at the junk yard won't even notice how you removed all the dog hairs from the seats with masking tape as they tear your car apart for spare parts.
So let me tell you about last week.