When we were dating, he always went the chivalrous route to open the passenger side door for me. Sure, it showed me he cared, but mostly I think it was because he needed to swat off all of the CDs and random accumulation that had gathered on the seat and floor in front of it.
I just laughed and lovingly nicknamed his car The Roving Museum. And up until very recently, it remained full of surprises. Literally.
Admission was free, but visitors never knew what to expect. After he and I moved in together, there were little bits of his life that never quite made it out of his car. Entire garbage bags full of Penn State paraphernalia, mismatched socks, loose change and kitchen utensils occupied the back seat for months.
The exhibits would change on occasion when he needed to make room in a hurry for a few more friends during an impromptu decision to go see a concert or something, but more stuff eventually and inevitably took its place.
The neat freak in me couldn't help but clean out his car on the few occasions I borrowed it. I never got to the big stuff, just stopped at a gas station and purged the gum wrappers and year-old Entertainment Weekly magazines. But try as I might, the piles just regenerated. It was as if the junk thought it was its manifest destiny to expand to the other side.
Eventually I gave up. I tried appealing to his economical side by showing him newspaper articles with experts proclaiming how fuel efficiency improves when your vehicle has less weight to haul, but he just shrugged and countered that I'm the one who cares about that stuff, not him.
So, on the rare occasions that we decided to take his car somewhere instead of mine, he just kept opening the passenger door for me and decluttered the seat. And I did my best to feign surprise when I pulled down the sun visor and a mess of crap, including expired parking passes and two-year-old mail, fell on my lap.
But not anymore. Jerry finally found a good reason to clean out his car: a car seat. (And the baby that will need to go in it sometime in November.) I found myself counting down the days to the birth of our child as well as The Great Car Declutter of 2007.
Much to my surprise and delight, that momentous event came much sooner than expected. We need his trunk space for hauling baby shower gifts from our trip to Rochester this weekend.
So, a few days ago, Jerry and I donned our HAZMAT suits, grabbed the box of garbage bags from under the sink and popped his trunk. It flew open so fast it seemed as if the latch was barely able to contain all of the contents inside.
And once we got underway, I understood why.
The motley collection really was quite impressive. We started pulling things out one-by-one and even Jerry looked surprised at most of it, often saying things like, "Ohhhh, THAT'S where that went!"
We found a blue sleeping bag and a red down comforter under the first layer and decided to place them on the ground and pile everything else on top. Here is a partial (and I emphasize partial) list of what we unearthed:
- Four cans of Lindhurst Gallery Beige paint that Jerry said he would return to the hardware store a year ago
- About five feet of chicken wire fence
- A dozen or so T-shirts, including one with a velvet image of Mr. T's face
- 9,440,038 CDs and cases, including the original Motorhead album which he lovingly set aside and immediately imported into our iTunes library
- A fishing rod, tackle box, waders and a few empty beer cans (Jerry's most recent hobby is hanging out with his outdoorsy friend Ben "down by the RIVA.")
- A Hallmark bag with a receipt from the card he got me for Valentine's Day circa 2004
- The Ugliest Bath Towel in the History of Bath Towels
- A random green flannel fitted bed sheet
- Pennstateopoly (Monopoly for Penn State fans -- because you never know when you might need that on a road trip)
- A first-aid kit, tool set and jumper cables buried at the very bottom -- so deep that he had no idea they were in there and would never have been able to get to them in the event of an emergency
- Two saucer sleds that my friend Gisela and I purchased the DAY AFTER JERRY AND I MET
- A Steelers workman's helmet
- Two ice scrapers, to which Jerry replied, "And to think that I've been using CD cases for about three winters."
- A TiVo
- A pair of shoes
As we stood back and took stock of what his trunk was surprisingly able to hold, it was a bittersweet moment.
The museum has officially closed. But I'm proud to say I was one of its most regular visitors.