On the Origins of Stinky Vans
May 10th, 2016
My minivan smells like spoiled milk and I’m not sure why. I spent thirty minutes the other night, systematically removing all of the accumulated debris that accompanies the transport of small children, but I couldn’t find the culprit. There was plenty of other alarming stuff lurking in the recesses of our vehicle – fruit snack wrappers, homework assignments, used tissues, socks, action figures, and sticky crayons that had melted into the cup holders, to name but a few – but nothing jumped out as the smoking (or in this case, stinking) gun.
Rationally, I know that the answer is simple. Some child spilled a dairy-based product onto the floor mats where it sank in and promptly spoiled. But I can’t help but wonder if a more sinister answer may be out there. Could my car be possessed by a dark force?
Before you laugh, let me ask you this. Set aside the car smell for a moment and ponder this. How do you explain the alarming transformation of my children from sunny, sweet-tempered angels into shrieking fiends every time they set foot in the car? What is it that causes them to go bonkers when confined to their car seats?
Okay, maybe sunny, sweet-tempered angels is an overstatement. My kids are fairly high-strung and their inter-personal dynamics are often tumultuous, but it definitely gets worse in the car. On our way to church last week, my youngest two got into a screaming match because each was looking out the other’s window. They were holding their hands up, trying in vain to block the other’s sight lines to the passing scenery, and shrieking at the top of their lungs. The racket enraged my oldest, who was trying to read in the backseat, and she started kicking their seats while screaming – “stop screaming.” I wanted to pause for a lesson in irony, but it seemed like the moment might not be right.
It is only in the car that I hear such phrases as – He’s breathing too loud! Stop looking at me! Or He’s putting his foot near my face!! Just this morning, my beloved youngest child took off her shoes and threw them at the back of my head while we were en route to school.
Music choice is another constant car battle. One prefers quiet while the others like to have the radio on. One of the radio-lovers sings along, sparking fury among of her traveling companions because they can’t hear the lyrics over her karaoke.
My kids will even fight over directions. There are two possible routes for us to take to church and I don’t believe all three have ever wanted the same route at the same time. Ever. Somebody always finds the need to start howling – “No, mommy! Don’t turn!” – at some point during the drive. (If anybody has ever wondered why I often arrive at church with wild eyes and clenched jaw, this is why. Well, and the fact that my son wanted to wear his batman pajamas to church. Again.)
Day after day, trip after trip, my kids collectively lose their minds when we step into the van. Add the mysterious smell to my children’s travel-related antics and I feel that car gremlins are a possibility that should not be overlooked.