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  Wednesday January 28th, 2015    

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The chip (06/30/2013)
By Frances Edstrom

I got a new car. New to me, that is. It came with clean everything. I even left the plastic wrap on the floor mats. I just love a clean car! It makes life seem so calm and organized when the car is clean. It makes me feel that if I saw a friend walking in a downpour, I could stop and say, generously, “Can I give you a lift?” without saying, “Excuse the mess,” and quickly throwing all the front seat junk into the back seat. That sort of action always makes people want to reach out their hands and brush off the passenger seat.

I admit to being a messy car person. Some people say they “live in” their cars. My relationship with my car isn’t quite as intimate. I use mine for a filing system. If I put mail in my car from home, it usually will get to the office, where I want it. If I put my dirty clothes in the back seat, they will get to the cleaners. Say a friend lent me a book. If after I finish it I put it in the car, I’m sure to keep seeing it so often that I am shamed into driving to her house and returning it.

My car is also an entertainment center for my grandchildren. There are two car seats, a bag full of coloring books and crayons, and often their backpacks, too. It serves as a mobile restaurant for them, as well.

Andie and Peyton and I stopped at Bronks for some annuals to plant, and they each got a bag of popcorn. I wouldn’t let them bring the popcorn into the car. “Why?” said Andie, who challenges everything. “Because I don’t want a mess!” I said. “You could just pick it up,” she observed. But I don’t want to have to pick it up! Doesn’t she understand?

Then yesterday, I had to meet the Xcel man over at our cabin. But when we got there, a freight train was parked, blocking our gate. He suggested we each go to lunch and meet back at the gate in a half an hour. I don’t usually eat lunch in the car, but I didn’t really have enough time to go anywhere, so I picked up a sandwich and chips and drove back to the gate.

I had just about finished eating, when I picked up a chip, and it jumped out of my hand and went down between the seat and the console, where not even a four-year-old’s hand can fit.

Oh, no! My beautiful new car now has a potato chip sitting where I can’t get it, and it will fester there and my car isn’t new and clean anymore!

I have to tell a tale on my sister-in-law, Nancy, who is (or used to be) a messy car person, too. She uses hers for classroom storage and a music library.

Shortly after she re-met an old classmate and fell head over heels in love with him (they are now married), she came over to our house to drop something off. We noticed she had a new car, and everyone remarked at how clean it was.

“Well,” she said, “Steve says that if you just pick up after yourself every day, you will always have a clean car. And it works! It’s still clean.”

“Wow!” we said, marveling at the power of Steve. “How long have you kept it clean?”

“Twenty-four hours,” she said proudly.

When I get home tonight, I will resurrect my contortionist routine, and seek out the offending chip. I must keep this car clean, as I am now thinking of it as a metaphor for my life. And I want a nice, clean, organized, good-smelling life! 


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