x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

When a princess is in the back seat, it's time to take inventory

That pile of stuff that has accumulated over time in the back seat of your car says a lot about your life.

'All our knowledge has its origins in our perceptions," said thinker, inventor and artist Leonardo da Vinci.

Or at least, that's what the history books say - who really knows, right? What I am sure of, however, is what an 8-year-old girl said when she climbed into the back seat of my car: "Is your car your second home?"

And just like that, she made me stop, look around and take an inventory of what was really in my car, and what it said about my life.

I never realised just how full the back seat had become, packed with things I meant to pick up "later" because my hands were full.

It is the things that you leave in your surroundings, "forgotten", that sometime tell the most.

So this young Sherlock Holmes went to work investigating, looking quite serious as she dug under scarves and books, shaking her head from time to time.

She then did a little inventory of the items she found: pens and pencils, water bottles (full and empty), different coloured head and neck scarves, two sweatshirts (one warmer than the other), perfume bottles, bags of nuts, cat food, bird food, even rabbit food (which I don't recall buying), music CDs, piles of notebooks and books, and for some reason four calendars that have long expired. I also have a bunch of different pillows for back support, which I switch as I commute across the UAE for stories.

As she held up each item, I found myself quickly making excuses. "The notebooks are for my interviews, so when I forget to get one from home, I just take one of these," I defended the half-empty scribbled pages.

She was not impressed. The empty water bottles, I was told, must be recycled. But she did like the extra food stocks I keep for hungry animals that I might encounter.

"You should have some donkey, goat and camel food," she told me in a very authoritative voice, explaining in great detail that these animals are wandering about looking skinny and hungry. I, of course, made a mental note and promised I would get some.

"And also for the chickens, don't forget the chickens and ducks."

Her mother, who was getting impatient about actually arriving at our destination, told me not to take any of this seriously. She laughed it off, saying that back seats - especially those that are not often used by passengers - are just like attics, where we put things that we soon forget.

"If you forgot about what you threw back there, it probably wasn't that important," was her conclusion.

That was all her daughter needed. She snatched one of the pink Hello Kitty bracelets that I had forgotten. "You didn't notice you were missing it," she said as she put it on.

I was, I admit, a bit annoyed at losing my bracelet, but this little incident was the beginning of an interesting discovery. Of course, there is always a risk of overanalysing such things, but when you spend as much time on the road as I do (and sometimes sleep in the back seat), it is fun to investigate this part of your life.

There have been photos on social media poking fun at how messy women's cars are compared to their homes. My theory is that most men have someone cleaning up after them. I have seen my friend's mother clean his car, even though he is in his 30s. Lucky chap. There was a collection of sports related items, including dumbbells (with the price tag still attached), basketballs and enough trainers to equip a small army.

Ever since that 8-year-old surveyed my car, I've been snooping for "evidence" in my friends' back seats. One has a kitchen in her car, plus an ironing board that I am puzzled how or when she uses. Another has a beauty salon in the back, with facial and hair products such as brushes, hair clips, mirrors, nail clippers, tweezers and even creams. Given the oven effect in the car, I would never use anything from that collection.

So just for fun, take a moment and look what you have left behind in the back seat or even in the boot. What does it say about you? What you have done recently - or were planning to do, but did not?

 

rghazal@thenational.ae

@arabianmau