Anyone who’s been around kids knows they have a knack for uncleaning the cleaned, unstraightening the straightened and unshining the shined. What’s more, the greater the effort a parent puts into accomplishing these everyday jobs, the more quickly the kidos seemingly take action to “un” them, offering a real-life example of Newton’s law: For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction—my guess is Newton had kids. And kids are excellent at reversing the accomplished.
Nowhere is this better illustrated than in the back of the family coach, where the kidos romp about. And, if your family’s truckster is anything like ours, rubber gloves and a mask are first recommended before attempting a go at the biennial vanover and de-stink-a-fication process.
Now then, recently my wife alerted me to a foreign smell in the family van—a hostile foreign smell. A smell that didn’t come with the purchase of the vehicle, which at the time included leather seats (dirt, snot and chocolate wipe up easily), automatic doors (no need to get out during drop-offs and pick-ups), and a sunroof (“If I have to drive such an noticeably un-hip vehicle” says my wife, “I at least want a sunroof.”). No, this was a foul smell. An anti-new car smell. One of those smells that whispers “Gezz, this stench is so revolting I may be forced to set this vehicle ablaze (by accident of course), the resulting insurance money being used to secure mama a fresh new leathery smelling ride.”
So, I dutifully began the unpleasant task of sniffing about the carryall, inch by filthy inch, in search of the belligerent naso-offender—which by now seemed hungry to consume every oxygen molecule it could find, its noxious pong taking on a decidedly menacing strength and pungency.
First, some scattered bits of trail mix. Sniff. Nope, that’s not it. After that, a smashed Burger King cup under the seats. No foul smell there. Uh…What’s this? A gummy bear melted into the carpet? Ahhh man, this is going to require an Exacto knife.
What’s this stuffed in the cubbyhole? A half-eaten, petrified cheeseburger? Note to self: Send Toyota a quick note thanking them for an abundance of compartments in which our kids can, and do, dispose of unwanted stuff, including edibles. Better throw that away. No wait, I’ll cut it in half (using my 18 volt Dewalt sawzall of course) and serve it up as a side dish with dinner—perhaps the wrongdoer will crack under the pressure and admit to stuffing it.
Next up, a few Goldfish. They don’t stink. Actually they look surprisingly edible and fresh, perhaps from the last month or so. Mmmm…I like Goldfish…these are still crunchy, sort of…and yummy too.
But then, oozing from somewhere between the two front seats, from within the center console, I caught a tangy whiff of the offending spice. Slowly, warily, I lifted each lid, opened each stowage compartment until I found it. There it was, the pathogenic toxin and the source of the horrific smell. A plastic kid’s cup, left behind in the aft most cup-holder compartment, the one closest to and facing the area where the little darlings practice their tomfoolery.
The fermenting Ft. Detrick like substance was yellowish in color, buttery in consistency, stunk to high heaven, and had spilled over slightly. What was it I thought? Doesn’t look like milk. It can’t be juice. It’s defiantly not water. So what was the putrid substance? Like my girls are so fond of saying, “Idono.”
Anticipating family van stinkasters just such as this, Toyota engineers presumably made the console removable—luckily. So, after wrestling for five minutes to remove it, and twisting my back in the process, I embarked on an exhaustive decontamination process. Stopping just short muriatic acid, an army of cleaning supplies was necessary to satisfactorily clean and de-stink this most handy van appendage.
Thankfully, the aroma of my wife’s noticeably un-hip ride returned to its normal stale tang soon after. “Alright girls” I asserted in my best stentorian voice, “new rule: no drinks allowed in mom’s van except for water.” At this they scoffed, as kids will, suggesting there's no need, but obviously there is.
So it is with family vans, kids and stench. Still, during all my musings of parenthood and paternity, and what the experience would look like, never did it dawn on me that I’d be performing such duties. But no matter, just as we parents are expected to play hopscotch, double-dutch and scratch daddy’s back for a candy bar, so too are we expected to feed, cloth, help with homework, and yes, when duty calls, don the rubber gloves and an surgical mask to rid the family truckster of unwanted BO.