The Village Idiot by Jim Mullen

Driving Miss Crazy

(EDITORS: As per previous notifications, this is Jim Mullen’s final column.

Dear readers,

After a thousand-plus weekly columns, I am going to hang up my columnist spurs and do what I was born to do: Wash dishes in a fast-food restaurant. Every column I ever wrote was made immeasurably better by my editors, so I want to leave you with one of their best efforts. My thanks for all your kind words. -- Jim

My car is my office, my filing cabinet, my spare bedroom, my art collection, my summer home, my beach cabana, my sauna, my think tank, my den, my gym locker, my golf locker, my tool chest, my media center, my breakfast nook, my easy chair, my laundry basket and my command center. It is from my car that I manage my far-flung media empire and vast fortune.

I also use it now and then to run errands and get around town.

It is my domain, my castle, my Fortress of Solitude, my isolation booth, my Chamber of Secrets, my -- well, you get the picture.

Yesterday, Sue borrowed it because hers is getting an oil change or a state inspection or a tire rotation or something. Today, when I climbed in, the seat was too far forward, the rearview mirror was aimed at the trunk, the radio was on the wrong station, the cup holder was clean, my change dish had been emptied out and the money replaced with crisp, new dollar bills. The passenger seat/mobile office/soda dispenser was empty, all the CDs were back in their cases and the steering wheel didn’t have its familiar, comforting stickiness. The dust from the dashboard was gone, and the car smelled different -- the way it did the day I drove it off the used car lot.

Sue had taken it to a car wash and had it detailed. There’s no telling how long it will take me to get everything back to normal. Weeks. Months, maybe.

“I had everything just the way I like it,” I told her. “That car was a work of art. Taking it to a car wash is like putting the ‘Mona Lisa’ in the washing machine! What would you think if I went to your office and threw away all the fast-food wrappers and pizza boxes, then vacuumed the papers off your desktop and sprayed air freshener all over everything?”

Sue was surprisingly unmoved. “There are no pizza boxes in my office. You could eat off the floor. And you probably would, if I let you. This was an intervention. You’re a menace to yourself and others. You’re a serial slob.”

“Am not.”

“I found mail in your car from last year.”

“I was going to open it.”

“That’s wonderful. Except you were supposed to SEND it. Now I know why we got so few Christmas cards this year.”

“I don’t think I can get past this without years of long, difficult, expensive therapy.”

“Or you could just suck it up and say ‘thank you.’ I’m sorry, but it had to be done.”

But she wasn’t really sorry. I heard her telling one of her friends on the phone that she’d had “his beater sprayed with antiseptic, and it still smells like dirty socks and old sponges. You’d swear someone was living in there. The floor was stickier than a movie theater’s. It’s amazing that he doesn’t get a ticket for littering every time he parks it. You’ve heard of those guys who get buried in their cars? That may be the only way to get rid of it. Of course, I’d probably have to get a toxic waste exemption.”

I tried one more time to get through to her.

“Haven’t you ever heard that a man’s car is his castle?” I said.

“No, of course not. You just made that up. Anyway, your car is not a castle. It’s a mobile landfill. I’m surprised you haven’t been arrested for hauling trash without a license.”

“There’s just no pleasing some people. If I bought a little red sports car, you’d complain about it.”

“No, I wouldn’t. I’d take it, and you could have my car. But don’t worry -- I’d throw some garbage in it, roll up the windows and leave it in the sun for a week or two, so you’d feel right at home in there.”

(Contact Jim Mullen at mullen.jim@gmail.com.)