Back seat research drives the obvious conclusions


From time to time, Farm and Dairy’s esteemed editor — in what is probably a vain attempt to stave off yet another inevitable column about my bat problem — will send me what she calls “column fodder.”

It’s generally some great little news clip about something worthy of discussion. I just love when this happens because it pulls me out of my own little soccer mom, abused by my dogs, buried under laundry existence and reminds me that there is a whole crazy world out there begging to be explored — and then ruthlessly made fun of.

The latest column fodder concerned actual funded “research” on whether or not the debris found under the seats of one’s automobile does or does not speak volumes about their soul. (For those who don’t like to read all the blabbity-blah-blah details, I will cut to the chase. It appears the answer is yes.)

“The exterior of your car might be how we want to be seen, but the interior is how we actually live,” said Kelley Styring, principal of InsightFarm. With her latest project, In Your Car, she interviewed drivers and looked around their cars, cataloguing every item she found.

She told research: “The biggest thing I learned is that the car is no longer being used in the way it was originally intended … it’s really functioning as a place for living, for entertainment, for sleeping, for eating, for working … it’s a habitat.”

Seriously? People pay for this stuff?

Great, yet another opportunity for me to feel inadequate and angst-ridden because something so obvious should have been mine to declare.

Honey, I have children in a variety of sports and a husband who insists on camping. I didn’t need some Janey-come-lately with a clipboard to tell me my automobile is my “habitat.” I live that every day.


Our van is our living room, play room, dining room and changing room. It is also an equipment locker, water dispenser and — judging from the good-sized dent on the passenger door — apparently doubles as a speed-bump at the local Walmart on weekends.

So when the editor-I-adore-who-wins-awards-so-you-know-she’s-smart sent me this research clip, I was tickled to bits. Primarily because my other draft for this week’s column was “people I want to murder at soccer practice” and I just wasn’t hitting quite the I’m-laughing-with-you-rather-than-plotting-my-ultimate-revenge-mark I was aiming for.

Thus, this automobile-detritus-as-a-reflection-of-life thing was right up my alley. I immediately sent back a predictable little e-mail that said that I couldn’t imagine what I would find under the seats of the ol’ family van, but if I told you, I’d probably have to kill you.

Undertaking my own “research” yesterday afternoon, I trundled on out to the driveway and threw open the massive barndoor-esque sliders that provide access to the rear of our van. (Also known as the place where adults fear to tread).

Certainly I would find — and write — something humorous about all the food I’d find under there. Perhaps commentary on how we could live for a week on the petrified French fries and Goldfish Crackers alone! I would ponder whether all the airbags in the world would save us if we were crushed from within the vehicle by all the toys, books, soccer cleats and games back there in the case of a fast-stop or accident?

I would question whether the Smithsonian would have interest in the petrified something-or-other I was sure to find. The origins of which could likely only be determined through advanced archeological technology and carbon-age dating.

Thus, as I peered into the murky gloom underneath the passenger seats, I was startled to find … nothing. Not a crumb. Not a speck. Not even a little dab’ll do you of anything at all. Nada. Zip. Zilch.

Wait a minute here, are you kidding me? It was clean? Great. So what does this say about my psyche? Not to mention my secret-self and inner-soul? Am I vapid? Barren? Devoid of inner color and life? Is mine a vast wasteland of utter nothingness? Are we — gasp! — boring?


Nah, probably not. I think what is — or isn’t — under the seats of my vehicle says that I’ve been terrorizing my children for years with the following admonition: “If it’s yours, pick it up. If you brought it, take it in. Even if you didn’t and it isn’t yours, pick it up anyway.”

Clearly, this little ditty really keeps the beneath-the-seats excavations to a minimum. Of course, I am a wholly-imperfect-work-in-progress and as such, this resolve lasts only until they enter the house. Then they dump every single blessed thing and walk away.

That’s your real research project right there: Mudrooms and entryways — what do they really say about you?

I call first dibs on the funding.

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