One Man's Trash...Back seat detritus can be a walk down memory lane.

click to enlarge JEEP HEAP: Treasure hides amongst the trash collected in the back seat. - Scott Harrell
Scott Harrell
JEEP HEAP: Treasure hides amongst the trash collected in the back seat.

I'm pretty sure the inside of my Jeep isn't the filthiest, most cluttered vehicle interior in the nation. It might be the filthiest and most cluttered among vehicles that are still driven every day, though. And I might be the only guy in America who once discovered a Polaroid of his car's cabin with the words "every day is trash day, Scott" written on it left under one windshield wiper. Or the only guy who's picked up a girl for a date, only to have her walk back into her place, return with a garbage bag, and refuse to get into his ride until he cleaned it up considerably.

The fast food bags and ATM receipts admittedly do tend to pile up in there, along with the empty matchbooks, the show fliers, the cigarette cellophanes and the CDs in various states of playability. And I guess that from time to time, if you were bold enough to reach underneath either of the front seats, your groping fingers might encounter what could be a slowly decomposing tangerine, or an exploded ketchup packet, or a handful of Milo The White Trash Terrordog's kibble.

But I tend to see these things as collateral damage, minor nuisances in a bigger picture.

While I fully admit to having often played the role of the less fastidious roommate in the past, if I ever was a total slob, I'm not anymore. Or rather, I'm not a total slob unless you're a Lysol-wielding obsessive-compulsive neat-Nazi. Clutter doesn't bother me, but scabies do (and boy, isn't that a lesson you shouldn't have to learn the hard way).

My point is, there's a reason behind the rubbish.

A car isn't just a means to an end, a way to get where you're going. It's far too big an investment, and too constant a presence. Cars inevitably become something more to their owners. What each becomes — a toolbox, a symbol of taste or status, a rolling stereo, the conduit to a dangerously inflated sense of personal power — depends completely on its owner, and certainly says more about the owner than the vehicle itself.

What my vehicle has become, it seems, is something between a personal grab-bag and a scrapbook on wheels, a private episode of This Is Your Life that plays out in six-month increments.

Look, it's a Steve Alex solo CD; he gave that to me the night that Chas' cat Elwood got scared of Milo The White Trash Terrordog, and bit Chas so badly that I thought someone had been murdered when I came in from peeing outside and saw all the blood.

And what's that over there? Why, it's the stenographer's notebook with all the notes I wrote during my last trip to New York; it reminds me of the night Scott and I were wrestling on the filthy floor of that dive while Mark kept the bartender from coming over the bar and killing us both.

And this? This is, uh, this is a third of a Smoky Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger from Wendy's, from, er, that time I ate at Wendy's. OK, so it has no special significance. But this, this is the parking ticket I got the time I left the truck downtown and got a little crazy with the fire extinguisher at Max's apartment.

(I really should pay that.)

My Jeep is full of memories waiting to be reexamined. That's not garbage, man — that's my recent past.

Of course, there is also garbage in there. If I maintained a clean interior, or cleaned it out every couple of days, all I'd get out of the process would be a reminder of what I bought or ate two days ago, and I can remember that. And I can't just pick up the meaningless peripheral debris, leaving the good stuff. Where's the fun in that? It serves as the sand in which the treasure is buried. It also serves to let me know when it's time to go on a treasure hunt: when I can't see the treasure anymore.

It's not yet time to clean out the truck because, just walking up to the windows, I can still see a bunch of crap that's going to be much more interesting after I've forgotten it's there.

The back panel from a trusted guitar amplifier that, after several years of service in several time zones, I traded in on a newer model.

The Yuengling bottle caps that remind me of the last time I was dumb enough to let somebody drink in my ride while I drove them around.

The leather jacket Peaches gave me for Christmas one year (which is a sort of treasure trove in itself — the last time I put it on after a long summer, I found $20 and a wine glass in the inside pocket, though I've got no recollection how they got there).

The ticket stubs from my last trip to Fun-Lan, where Becks and I saw I Walk The Line.

The large garbage bag from the last time I attempted to clean out the Jeep, and instead just sat in the back seat, picking shit up off the floorboard and remembering.

So what does my vehicle say about me?

Maybe that I'm someone that can't let go, that needs to always have the things that have happened within easy reach.

Or maybe that I need to stop making elaborate excuses and just clean out the fucking truck already.

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