“There’s mud up there in the rainy season,” I hear myself saying. “And lots of it. So from now on, you’re driving us and that’s that.”
Anyone who buys a new car knows the drill for the first few weeks – park a block away at the market, no eating in the vehicle, get it washed once a week. Until the new car smell wears off. Then you’re done.
But here’s the thing. I can’t pull myself back from the new car ledge.
Every Sunday we’re in town, I chauffeur us to the trailhead where we take our mountain trek.
The partner drives four billion miles to and from work, so that leaves me to take my car come weekends. I like to drive. Maybe because I don’t have to drive four billion miles a week.
When I bought my new car, I told him those days were over. His was several years old, and since we spend so much of our down time in the wild world of nature, he would be our new chauffeur.
Then a couple months passed.
“I’m done driving us,” he says, rubbing the side of his head like he always does when he has to drive in in LA traffic. “You’ve gotta wrap your head around how you’re gonna start taking your car to places with grass, bugs and dirt. You need a car detailer you can trust. This isn’t healthy. Maybe call that shrink you saw that time you were dating Cuckoo.”
He’s been told more than once he can’t reference Cuckoo unless he gets written permission first. I put my thinking cap on and tell him to give me another month.
I needed a plan. I call my father, a big outdoorsman who has a history of buying a new truck every five minutes.
“So – what do you do? About all the dirt and stuff. You know, tracking it in the car.”
“What are you talking about? I don’t do anything about the dirt. Oh, maybe I’ll shake out the mat if I think about it. But I don’t usually think about it.”
Probably because he knows he’s gonna buy another one before it’s time to get it washed.
“I have a friend who’s weird about her car too,” my friend Jim says. “She’s also been formally diagnosed obsessive-compulsive. But that’s the least of her problems. I think she’s coming to that thing on Friday. I’ll introduce you – ‘Crazy? Meet Crazy.’” I was intrigued, but pretended I wasn’t.
At the thing on Friday, I ask her about her car crazy. She says she doesn’t like my use of that word. I apologize. She talks. And talks.
When I left I had a plan.
Next morning when I finish stuffing our backpacks in the kitchen, I peer into the living room and clear my throat. “We’ll wear our good shoes to the car. We’ll keep our boots in the trunk of the car. When we get to the trail, we’ll change into our boots and put our good shoes in the trunk. I already have bags – one for clean, one for dusty. I have towels in the trunk. We can sit on them on our way back. AFTER we put our good shoes back on and our boots in the trunk.”
“You are a crazy person,” the partner says, barely glancing over his laptop. “This is what I get for hooking up with someone after forty. All the sane ones are already taken. Because all this is – whatever. Just tell me what to do and I’ll do it.”
A few compliant weeks later, we’re getting out of the car at the trailhead. “Uh-oh,” he says. “I forgot my boots.”
“What do you mean? They’re in the trunk.”
“No. I got them out last weekend for the thing in Malibu.”
“Well, do you think you can hike in those ridiculous things you’re wearing?”
“I guess,” he says. “But—”
“Spit it out,” I say. “But what?”
“What do I do – when we get back to the car? These are my ‘good shoes.’ My ‘good shoes’ will be dusty. So will my hiking socks. We’ve got two stops on the way home. I guess you can just put them in the trunk when we get back to the car, then give them back to me every time we get out.”
Dammit. He’s trying so hard. I feel so bad I’m crazy sometimes.
Upon our return, I place the towels and hand him a giant plastic trash bag.
“What’s this for?”
“So’s you won’t have to keep taking your shoes off and on. Just put your legs in the garbage bag.” I pretend it doesn’t sound like, “It places the lotion in the basket.”
He does as he’s told and slams the door.
That night, he texts me this picture he took on our way home. I ask him when he took it. He says it was either when I was adjusting my floor mat or chasing a dust mote off the steering column.
The next day, his mechanic told him he needed to think about getting a new car.
This morning, he presents me with a gift. “They’re temporary seat covers – you just slip them over your headrest when you get in, then toss them in your trunk when you’re home. That way, no towels. And look – I even got you a drawstring bag to put them in.” No hint of sarcasm. That’s because he knows it’s coming for him. Mark my words. That dusty shoe is gonna be on the other foot.
Crazy? Meet crazy.