By Paula Ganzi Licata
When we traded in apartment life in the boroughs for homeowner status in the suburbs, we improved the quality of life for our car. Putting a roof over our wheels was a big deal. After all, doesn’t a car deserve a home of its own?
Once our garage opened its big barn doors to our Maxima, I began to pity the poor heaps out on the streets. Life can be cruel for those vagabond vehicles left at the curb, vulnerable to the hit-and-run, the vandalism, the cold, rain and snow. There’s a privacy issue, as well. Anyone can see right into your back seat and check out your dashboard. And what about pride? Flyers are shoved under wiper blades, bird droppings are splattered across windshields, dogs relieve themselves on tires.
The garaged car isn’t abandoned overnight — it’s tucked in. Warm and dry inside, all elements are left outside. Even the light touch of morning dew will not come in contact with the car’s exterior. The paint won’t peel as quickly. Rust spots will take longer to appear. Ice scrapers will never slash across its windshield. Insurance rates are kinder. Life is good inside a garage.
But cars can’t talk, and people would rarely listen.
It began late one night. We were too tired to open the big barn doors. The morning after it was nice to have immediate access to the garage. No need to squeeze past the car to get to the garbage cans.
Eventually, leaving the Maxima in the driveway became standard operating procedure. Now it has been years since we parked our car under a roof.
But the space still beckons. My husband returns from Costco with fallout-shelter quantities of goods. Four cases of bottled water. A package of paper towels the size of a child’s bed sits in the corner. New merchandise is constantly arriving. The presence of a small forklift in my garage would not surprise a visitor to this oasis of gluttony. Nearest the door is a case of my favorite chardonnay. The rationalization? It was on sale at the discount liquor store and it certainly won’t go to waste. The problem? It certainly won’t go to waste.
Then there are all the power tools we bought to create the Power Lawn — golf-course green and so flawless it could host a Yankee game. But it didn’t quite work out. Envious that our neighbor’s grass was greener, we hired professional landscapers and abandoned the lawnmower, hedge clippers and weed whacker in the garage, spider webs confirming years of dormancy.
Ditto the sit-up bench, a set of weights, the treadmill. Inspired (we won’t admit to lust) by beautiful new neighbors, physically fit friends and fashionable business associates, exercise equipment piles up in the garage, mocking the owners’ waistlines.
The snowblower happened on a chilly fall day, years ago, when the slothful one, stretched out in a recliner, saw snowflakes on a TV commercial, thought of shoveling and roused himself long enough to make a trip to a mammoth-sized hardware store. (Last month’s storm notwithstanding, the number of snowblowers standing guard in garages all over Long Island is excessive for a region where school children can go an entire winter without a snow day.)
In addition to stuff is the anti-stuff. The empty Sony carton from our 32-inch TV. The empty Panasonic carton. Those black and white Gateway computer boxes. My husband knows how much I loathe this kind of clutter. Not too long ago I took matters into my own hands and carted all this cardboard to the curb on garbage night. Apparently he retrieved them. Full of anger, I felt like pelting him with Styrofoam peanuts.
Some garages actually contain cars, more cars than there are drivers in the house. Multiple car payments are absorbing cash flow in households from Nassau to Suffolk. Hello avarice. An excessively high opinion of oneself, better known as pride, bolsters the demand for very particular purchases. Sports cars. Trendy trucks. The promotion signaled by the BMW. The appearance of a Range Rover after a stock split. These adult toys are the few cars that triumph over trash and treasures and get housed in the garage.
We’re getting another car. It’s just a four-cylinder. But we’re thinking of keeping the new car in the garage. Of course, we would have to clear out the space. But I don’t know if we’re prepared for a garage sale. It could be too revealing.