Junk in the Trunk

What's in your car's closet?

For most of my adult life, I drove either a mini-van or a station wagon. That’s part of being a mom. It wasn’t until the kids were on the verge of leaving home that I got a real car, a grown-up car, which means a car with a trunk.

When you have a mini-van or a station wagon, you have to sort of tidy up the storage space in back, since it’s semi-public. Besides, you might need to store a bag of soccer balls in there on the way to practice, or fit in a few saxophones for the marching-band parade. But a trunk is completely private. It’s like a car closet. You shut the door, and nobody knows what you have in there. Until …

Until something goes wrong. I use my car to commute to work via Route 422 and the Schuylkill Expressway, which means I see an awful lot of cars with flat tires. And that means I see an awful lot of cars parked on the berm with the contents of their trunks spread out beside them, since in most sedans you have to dig all the way down to the bottom of the trunk to reach your spare tire.

People keep the most amazing things in their trunks. Some of them carry around identical plastic bins all filled with—what? Who knows? Jewelry? Files? Their winter wardrobes? Some of them have lawn furniture, or baby equipment, or pairs and pairs of football cleats. Some are packing big plastic bags of what looks to be trash. This morning, I passed a guy who had a whole row of planters filled with dirt—no plants, just dirt—stretched out beside his ride. There’s something weird and creepy about such an unanticipated display of one’s auto chattel; I felt like a voyeur even as I wondered: Who carries dirt around in the trunk of his car?

The other night, my daughter was helping me carry groceries into the house. “Is that a golf club?” she asked, lifting up a bag and peering beneath it.

Yep, I told her.

“When’s the last time you golfed?”

“It’s been a while.” Like, maybe, 20 years. I’ve hit at driving ranges since then, but not with a wood, which is what’s in the trunk.

She looked at me. “Is it in there for defense?” she asked in disbelief. I nodded sheepishly. Better she think that than the truth—that if I ever have to lay bare whatever embarrassments my trunk holds on the side of a highway, I’ll at least have a wood golf club to include as a show of class.