Cars are no place for a perpetual rain forest

Sunday, September 2, 2001

It's bad enough that allergy sufferers have to cope with the great outdoors without people thinking that cars can be perfect gardens.

Julie Gordon of Libertyville, Ill., cultivates a flower and herb garden on a ledge inside her two-seater Honda. The car has no air conditioning, so Gordon sprays the plants with a water bottle when it gets too hot.

She grows a little bit of everything in her car, from pineapple sage to tomatoes.

When it rains, she puts the top on the small sports car. But she leaves the small rear window open so the plants can drink in the mist and humidity.

"How do you stop to smell the flowers if you don't have time to stop and smell the flowers? Take them with you," she told The Associated Press.

Personally, I hope this doesn't catch on. Imagine how awful this would be for parents.

I know it would be a disaster for us. Becca and Bailey already store everything from school backpacks to tennis shoes in our van. The van is full of our daughters' artwork, not to mention the occasional petrified fast-food item. We don't have room for a garden.

Becca, 9, would be appalled to have to share quality space in our cars with growing plants. But Bailey, our 5-year-old who seemingly doubles as nature's poster child, would love to share space with a few plants.

She'd be covered with soil, leaves, flowers and other garden debris by the time we got to school each day. No doubt, she'd want to water the garden every day. We'd end up with cars that look more like rolling hot tubs.

Besides, Joni and I don't have green thumbs. Plants in our care generally die within a few weeks, victims either of too much or not enough watering. It's not a pretty sight seeing all those shriveled plants gasping their last breath.

We've learned our lesson. We don't keep houseplants. Putting growing, living plants of any kind in our vehicles would be tantamount to a death sentence for them.

They wouldn't survive childhood either. They would quickly be covered with sticky gum, oozing chocolate candy or some other food item that miraculously materializes in parents' cars.

Not to mention, allergy sufferers could no longer breathe the air without serious sneezing that would send the most steady driver right off the road.

I can live with the Barbie dolls that regularly congregate in my back seat. But I can't stomach the thought of growing tomatoes in my car. There's more room in the van. But even there, I wouldn't want plants to take root.

The idea of driving around in a perpetual rain forest doesn't appeal to me. Passenger vehicles should be comfortable and well air-conditioned. You shouldn't have to drive with your umbrella up to keep your head dry.

If you leave your car parked outside over the weekend, you might find your steering wheel overgrown with vines on Monday morning. Next thing you know, you'll have to start pruning just to get in the driver's seat.

All in all, it's better to leave the garden at home. That way the plants won't get motion sickness and you'll be able to see out your back window.

Mark Bliss is a staff writer for the Southeast Missourian.

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