Despite having grown up Monopoly – that is, despite being the spawn of big spenders Mr. Monopoly and Mr. Mr. Monopoly – I am not known for my own profligate ways. Quite the opposite, in fact; I'm kind of a cheap bastard (or "basterd," as the kool kidz spell it), at least as far as things are concerned. Don't get me wrong, I do spend money, but my rule seems to be that if something lasts longer than two weeks, I don't want it. So essentially, my mad cash, such as it is, is burned on movies, plays, dinner, vacation, spa days, concerts, cocaine, and hookers. (And even then, I don't call my dealer till I've paid off all necessities and contributed to the 401(k)s and 529s.) But as far as stuff goes – furniture, clothes, accessories, home decor, electronics, appliances, and most definitely vehicles – meh. And I've trained the Roy boys to be "meh" as well. If our towels or sheets become threadbare, we ask for towels or sheets for Christmas. We get our clothes at Kohl's, and my 5-year-old wears my 9-year-old's hand-me-down underwear. Our dryer is 18 years old. We are utterly brand oblivious with regard to all consumer goods, with the possible exception of hockey gear. And we drive cars for a minimum of ten years, trading in the older one at the newer one's five-year mark. So I obviously have never been car proud.
But it's different with our 2007 Toyota Highlander Hybrid. It's different because Al Gore made me get it. As I mentioned many times on Old Offsprung, Al Gore is my liberal hero and my hectoring dad rolled into one. As I do all the exceptionally powerful gods, I worship and fear him equally and simultaneously, and I understand with great wariness that my multitudinous sins have incurred his wrath. You see, if I'm a failed progressive in any way, it is where the environment and climate change are concerned. Mostly, the problem is my addiction to air conditioning, which I, personally, need to use roughly ten months a year here in North Jersey (giving the ozone a break in January and February). I knew for a long time that I had to somehow figure out a way to balance out this karmic villainy. And so, when '07 dawned and we found ourselves in want of a new automobile, Al Gore guilted me into buying a hybrid.
By 2007, I couldn't get just any hybrid. It had to be one that was big enough to fit a hockey bag, hockey player, and assorted hockey fans; heavy enough to keep my precious wee ones safe on Jersey highways; and reliable enough that a car nitwit like myself would not routinely be flummoxed by random service issues. The Toyota Highlander Hybrid met all those criteria. But it wasn't cheap; it was, in fact, singularly and surprisingly un-cheap. Being such an atypically expensive purchase for us, and being as it was mandated from the heavens, it has become the one material item we own that we attempt to respect.
OK, I'm a liar. My husband respects the car, and he terrorizes the children into respecting it. I myself don't treat it very well. I have, sadly, always possessed the driving skills of Mr. Magoo. While I strain mightily not to cross the line into outright danger and have never been cited for a moving violation (though I admit that says more about my ability to charm cops than anything else), I have been known, on a somewhat consistent basis, to drive on things that are not technically road surfaces. I also don't make much of an effort to keep the car clean, either inside or out. My house is immaculate, but immaculacy is tiring, and my inner pig needs to show herself somewhere, so the car is where she comes out to play. The interior kinda-sorta resembles the blighted abodes of those poor people on "Hoarders" on A&E (right after "Intervention" and "Obsessed" – it's a three-hour block designed to make me feel relatively stable!). And I'm pretty sure, in 23 years of driving, I have never ever ever taken a car of mine to the car wash.
So last Saturday, The Heir and his buddy, Neighbor Boy, thought they'd help me out. They were in our backyard playing, unbeknownst to us, with the garden hose, since it was about 80 degrees here in North Jersey in October (where, needless to say, I was running the AC full blast, thus perpetuating the global warming cycle and ensuring it will be 82 degrees next October), and they got the bright idea to wash my car. In 9-year-old-boy world, "washing the car" means, apparently, "wetting the car." (Very similar MO with washing their hands and bodies, I've noticed.) They ran water all over the car for ten minutes but noticed that it did not seem demonstrably cleaner. After much deliberation that I can picture vividly in my head – hands on chins, heads tilted sideways, squinting at the Highlander, they're saying, "Now, in terms of washing something, i.e., making it cleaner, you use water and...what? We know there's something else, some sort of...product that effectuates cleanliness via application onto the dirty surface...Something we use every day...You wash with water and WHAT, for God's sake?" – The Heir, it seems, declared, "I know! A squeegee! We need a squeegee! And my dad has one in our garage!"
Had The Heir or Neighbor Boy bothered to ask us, we would have told them that no, in fact, we do not have a squeegee in the garage. We do, however, have a paint scraper in the garage. And though a paint scraper looks nothing like a squeegee, in 9-year-old-boy world, they are identical. After five minutes of squeegeeing the car's hood, Neighbor Boy noticed the enormous gashes. Each boy immediately ran into his own respective house with an unspoken promise to say not a word about the destruction unless and until confronted.
NotClooney discovered the deed on Sunday. He exploded into the house and bellowed "What the hell happened to the car??" The Heir burst into tears, while The Evil, Evil Spare said, "The Heir was mad at Mommy and decided to scratch up her car."
The Heir, in the middle of heaving sobs, vomited out his denial and explanation. Given, however, our family dynamic, NotClooney believed The Evil, Evil Spare. The Spare is to NotClooney what I am to cops who pull me over, and then some; not only does The Spare never get punished by NotClooney, but NotClooney will side with The Spare against just about anyone, including his other son, wife, elderly parents, prosecutors, judges, and international criminal courts. It has something to do with The Spare not only being deceptively adorable, but being the only adorable creature on earth who actually likes NotClooney. It's true; my husband engenders indifference at best and terror at worst, with some contempt tossed in for good measure, in all children and animals, except The Spare, who is, as I've mentioned, not actually a child but a crusty pensioner/paroled criminal mastermind hiding in the body of an Ewok-looking 5-year-old. For example, our stupid cat seems to forget who NotClooney is every day, while our old cat has actually mastered "flipping the paw," just for him. Our nephew calls him "Uncle No" ("All you ever say is 'No!'" Pretty clever, I thought.), while our niece refuses to call him "Uncle" at all. He is the only human being my cousin's little yippee pocketbook dog does not try to entice into a game of fetch. If my life were a Lifetime movie, the Hausfrau character would have serious doubts about the NotClooney character, given the insight of the innocents. But I'm too lazy to worry.
Anyway, The Heir insisted that Neighbor Boy would back up his story that the car-gashing was entirely accidental and the result of misguided good intentions. NotClooney marched next door, rang the bell...and immediately made Neighbor Boy cry, while his dog, Rosie, peed on NotClooney's foot. Because, as I have mentioned, all children and animals hate him. But through his hysteria, Neighbor Boy backed up The Heir. NotClooney calmed down, and we had to put our heads together to decide appropriate punishment, because as it turns out, it will cost $587 to fix the car hood. I didn't want to dampen his sweetness, because I love that he wanted to wash my disgusting car for me. But he did a damn lot of damage! We finally decided that we would be wise to discipline not so much the damage he did, but the use of the paint scraper, because he is not allowed to handle any tools, and he knows that. He's been collecting a teeny allowance for more than a year now, and in the same time, we've also been letting him keep for his own use any gift money he receives apart from Christmas or birthday – the $5 Aunt Judy sends in a card for Valentine's Day, the $10 the Easter Bunny leaves him via Aunt Dottie. He's compiled over $200 in the year. So we took it and will apply it to the $587 bill from the body shop. We won't dock him going forward, though.
Now we just have to decide how to punish The Evil, Evil Spare, who blatantly lied in order to get his brother in trouble. He doesn't have any loose cash for us to take; he's too young for allowance, and he won't be allowed to keep any money gifts until second grade; everything has to go to the 529. Then again, we could safely take all that money back from him as punishment; I'm pretty sure prison doesn't charge tuition.