Taking forced inventory of a two-ton rolling office

By Friends & Neighbors June 25, 2013 03:19

Among car’s contents, 54 pens

Do you know what’s in your car?

For a very few of us, it’s almost nothing. These people vow at the dealership to keep their new cars pristine, and they’re kept sterile to a fault. Registration, proof of insurance, an up-to-the-minute maintenance log and, maybe, a $300 receipt for the last detail job is about all you’ll find.  

I hate these people. They’re anal, tightly wound and really boring – especially when they start talking about their cars.

Others, following the CHP’s winter advice, carry blankets, water, food, a flashlight, a fully charged cell phone and, sometimes, a trunk full of survival gear.

I hate these people, too – mostly because I’m not smart enough to do the same thing.   

But I love my wife, and what she keeps in her car is part of the reason I do.  

Really, how could you not love someone who drives around with 54 pens, 17 AA batteries, 11 packets of lens wipes, six pairs of scissors, four Starbucks cards, three bottles of hand sanitizer, two nail clippers,  lipstick and Mace?

This is but the tip of an unlikely iceberg found in her Honda Pilot after it was totaled in March by a drunk driver with some big numbers of her own – specifically, a 3.2 blood alcohol level.

The inventory extricated from our fallen Pilot runs three pages and about 200 individual items. Collectively, it’s a combination of yard sale, pawn shop, pharmacy, stationery store, recycling center, mini-mart and lost-and-found.

Alas, there was precious little from the survival store in the car: no gold, freeze-dried food caches, pocket copies of the Constitution, or firearms to shoot down UN helicopters.

But my journalist wife of 26 years was ready to write about whatever apocalypse came down the pike. At least, that is, until her 54 pens (amazingly, she guessed we’d find 56 in the Pilot) all ran out of ink. 

A reporter, editor and publisher, I suppose, can’t have too many ball points. What if one runs dry during a crucial interview? Or two? Or three? Or…

Bottom line: The stuff we found in her car, as serendipitous and random as it might seem, has some practical value. Look at these items by category, and her inventory begins to make sense.  

Professional: For readers, 10 boxes of magazines hot off the press. For reporting (by, maybe, a traveling newsroom of 12), those 54 pens. On floorboards, consoles, map bins, upholstery crannies, defroster vents and more, pens could have been reached from virtually anywhere in the car. For cut-and-paste editing, a half-dozen scissors (no sentence is safe), a jumbo glue stick, a roll of Scotch Tape, a tape measure. To meet the public, business cards, two pin-on nametags, lipstick. For customer relations, 20 Christmas postage stamps, three get-well cards. For sharper focus, an empty glasses case and three packets of lens wipes (in case the glasses turn up). To buy more pens (or notebooks to go with them), one Staples rebate card. To list items that need not be carried in our next car: five yellow highlighters.  

Health, hygiene: For that all-important smile, two toothbrushes, two sticks lip balm, one tube Crest, dental floss. To smell sweet in a dirty world, Wrigley’s Polar Ice gum, Mitchum extra-strength deodorant. For nails and other nuisances, two clippers, one tweezers. To ward off the daily microbial assault, three bottles of hand sanitizer (when you touch 54 pens, you can’t be too careful), Zicam, three packets of face wipes, and a packet of Emergen-C. For the headaches of running a small business, one Tylenol and a baggie of at least 100 Advil.

Security: That Mace cartridge, three knives, one loose key, five keys on ring, one padlock and, apparently for picking locks none of these keys will open, a mini toolkit.  

Fashion: Two pairs socks, one beaded bracelet, and yet-undefined plans to go to the next Kohl’s sale.

Leisure: One Regal Cinema card, four Starbucks cards to stay awake through the latest reincarnation of Superman, Ironman or Batman.

Culture: A list of hours and contacts at the Mokelumne Hill Library.

Power: A charging cord to a missing device, 17 AA batteries to power, for hundreds of hours, a small flashlight we never found in car.  

Finance: $11.83 in coins.

So there you have it, a 21st Century survival kit suitable, if not practical, for packaging and sale at Kragen’s.

No? Well, if our survival kit accomplishes nothing else, it might inspire you to clean up your own car before a crash or sale forces the issue.

Chris Bateman, 67, is a journalist based in Sonora, California, where over the past 40 years he has covered everything under the Sierra Nevada sun.

Copyright 2013, Friends and Neighbors Magazine


By Friends & Neighbors June 25, 2013 03:19
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  1. allan June 25, 16:24

    outstanding written piece as usual, CB!

  2. Joan Jackson June 26, 17:46

    Great reminder, but I’m not looking!

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