the smell of my desperation has become a stench

On being more friendly to the environment

Last week the price of gas forced us to switch cars, and now instead of driving around in our mammoth SUV we’re folding our bodies to fit inside the two-door 2000 Honda Civic that has been parked for months inside our garage. It is a car I could fit in my front pocket. We tried this about two years ago and gave up after a few months because of the subsequent back aches, but this time we’ve promised ourselves that we’d give it a more hearty go. For me that meant we had to recharge its ailing air conditioning unit, but for Jon this meant we had to upgrade its stereo. That right there is a pretty clear delineation of our varying priorities, that I would prefer the family not die of heat and he’d prefer that if we did at least we’d go out keeping it real.

So we had the air conditioning fixed, and that has helped the temperature of the car somewhat, as much as you can help a car that is jet black and so full of tall human bodies that in order to breathe air we have to suck it through a straw poking out the top of the window. I actually think the weak air conditioning is a bit of an environmentally friendly feature because it makes us want to drive less. Do we really need those groceries? If it means I have to sit through that twenty-minute red light on Foothill Dr. and bake my internal organs, then nah, let’s have some of that canned sauerkraut. Again. What will Leta eat? A bowl of ketchup.

But then Jon had a new stereo installed, one that I did not approve beforehand, which is basically like saying to a kid, look, here’s my checkbook, go to the mall and pick out a toy. And that kid comes home with a pony.

He described the stereo to me in certain terms that did not give me any idea as to what he had installed, and I did not realize the staggering magnitude of it until I had gone to check our mailbox and needed to put a few boxes in the trunk. There I am in the parking lot of an outdoor mall, a stack of boxes about to tumble out of my spindly arms, when I finally jigger open the trunk with the tip of my foot and sitting there is a seven-by-fourteen-foot subwoofer.

Yes, the subwoofer is bigger than the car.

I mumble a few inappropriate adjectives under my breath on the ride home, storm into the house and go, WHAT IS THAT COFFIN DOING IN OUR TRUNK?

And he’s all, baby! BABY!


So he prepares an hour-long PowerPoint presentation on the advantages of The Subwoofer That Could Eat Moby Dick, and I sit through it and nod and ask him if it helps him sleep better at night knowing that he could churn butter just by setting a jug of milk on the hood of the car while listening to Bob Marley on the stereo. A CAR BUILT FOR HOBBITS.

He assures me that because of this stereo he will not ever be tempted to take the SUV anywhere, so I half-heartedly chalk this up to a victory for the environment. At least, I did until the first morning that I took Leta to school with the new stereo, and because he had satellite radio worked into the new unit and I could now listen to My Stories, I got to listen to a fifteen-minute investigative report on Napoleon’s penis, how it was cut off when he died and then passed around in a decorative box for hundreds of years until it ended up in the historical collection of an eccentric, and then wouldn’t you know, when the journalist finally saw it he described it as looking like a wee piece of beef jerky.

When I got home I walked in the door, plodded over to Jon who was compiling in iTunes a bass-heavy iPod playlist for driving, and told him I forgave him. And when he asked why I said because of Napoleon’s penis.

  • naima

    2008/07/09 at 7:03 pm

    my husband & i drive a vw GTI the size of a pea, our trunk has been outfitted with a subwoofer the size of our condo. oh baby!

  • Moxie

    2008/07/09 at 7:19 pm

    Ahhh, Napoleon’s Penis…the great equalizer.

  • Martha

    2008/07/09 at 7:04 pm

    I’m feelin’ your pain. We fold 4 people into a Mazda 5 and we are keepin it real…..REAL HOT because the ac is pitiful if the temp is anywhere above 80.


  • Julie

    2008/07/09 at 7:06 pm

    I’m LOVING Loni! And Leta is getting more and more beautiful. I love the way you capture the color of her eyes in your photographs.

  • Wicked H

    2008/07/09 at 7:07 pm

    Scouring the interwebs. I will find you that penis in a box. If it is the last thing I do.

    If I cannot, will a dozen napoleons in a box do??

  • amy

    2008/07/09 at 7:11 pm

    we’d be driving a prius, but for the fact that I had twins. 3 kids and a prius don’t mix well. So its a minivan. It kills me to fill it up.

    good for you for driving the small car.

  • Anonymous

    2008/07/09 at 7:13 pm

    Did it feel like Napoleon’s penis was smacking you in the back of the head as you listed?

    Because I road around in a car with a subwoofer once, and that’s exactly how I would describe it. I should clarify–not the tiny beef jerky penis, but the one Napoleon talks about at parties. That’s that one that was smacking me all the way through Can’t Touch This.

  • rosalyn

    2008/07/09 at 7:13 pm

    You are totally crazy and I absolutely love you. You make me laugh out loud with your view of the world. Did I say that I love you? Good job with the Honda and the woofer and being called baby. …………and really that does fix a whole lot.

  • French Rangoon

    2008/07/09 at 7:15 pm

    I hear you about the heat. I drive a behemoth of a car (which I am selling, like, right now) whose air conditioning is kaput and it just sucks. Especially at high speeds, you have to make the choice between your eardrums and your sweat glands. It’s a painful decision.

  • kym b

    2008/07/09 at 7:17 pm

    amy, I feel you on filling up the minivan. We used to be Civic owners, but 3 kids in carseats later, no dice. Someday…

    I love the “baby. BABY! I can totally hear it (and have)

  • KD@ A Bit Squirrelly

    2008/07/09 at 7:18 pm

    So I am floored that I even made it in the top 100 comments let alone the top 10 (15?) so I felt the urge to comment.

    I feel your pain. Not in the stereo area (though I am SURE it comes next) but in the car priorities. Caspian (my husband) cannot for the life of him resist the urge to put wheels and tires on everything. The only reason our suv is stock is because he put wheels on his nova…**sigh**

  • Pat

    2008/07/09 at 7:19 pm

    I thought you were totally serious about “Loni” until I noticed a mistake. The correct spelling is “Menomonie, Wisconsin.” No self-respecting writer would purposely make a spelling error. : – )

    This is the closest I’ve come to the top of the comments. I look forward every day to your musings.

  • Katherine

    2008/07/09 at 7:19 pm

    I sympathize with the A/C. I grew up riding in the back of a Ford Taurus (you know, the trunk), where A/C does not exist. Cool air? Go to the other side of the globe! …And I hate to add this but we fit in my dad’s Hatchback, where the A/C reached. (But, only one of us was tall then. 🙂

  • Janet

    2008/07/09 at 7:22 pm

    My husband who is 6’4″ and very long waisted has to try on cars. Surprisingly the VW Beetle has headroom to spare even with the sunroof.

  • Middle Aged woman

    2008/07/09 at 7:23 pm

    Oh my god, it’s penis day! Mika Adamick guest-blogged on Dad Gone Mad with a penis story. Penis, penis, penis. I just like saying it.

  • ktjane

    2008/07/09 at 7:23 pm


  • Angie T

    2008/07/09 at 7:25 pm

    So why was Napoleon’s penis treated this way? Was he half horse or half Gnome?

  • Aisha

    2008/07/09 at 7:25 pm

    Okay, now, when people ask me why one of my majors is history, I am going to tell them about that story, because it sounds way better than ‘I figure being a professor for a decade or so will be fun.’ (I plan on then quitting and opening some sort of coffee/bakery place. I keep waiting for my ideals/dreams to be crushed.)

  • Antigone

    2008/07/09 at 7:27 pm

    My husband, after several years, convinced me to get a system in my car and I kept putting him off till one weekend he INSISTED and I’ve never been happier. There is nothing better then NPR in FULL ON STEREO first thing in the morning. 😉

  • meggersh

    2008/07/09 at 7:27 pm

    Love your blog, check it every day. And to see my mother’s hometown of Menominee in print? PRICELESS. (You spelled it correctly if you’re speaking of Menominee MICHIGAN, which is right on the U.P. MI/Wisconsin border. Common mistake.) Keep up the hilarity.

  • amyz5

    2008/07/09 at 7:28 pm

    i love a post that can combine napoleon’s penis and going green.

    sorry to say that no matter what i ever drive that penis will really be more of a story for me. call me shallow.

  • Kravos

    2008/07/09 at 7:28 pm

    When I bought my new car last month, I promptly measured the space of the trunk. Priorities, know ’em. Love ’em. Obey ’em

  • Jillian

    2008/07/09 at 7:32 pm

    I totally hear you on the air conditioning. We haven’t had air in our Honda for three years now, and I don’t know how much longer I’m going to be able to take it.

  • Vickie

    2008/07/09 at 7:33 pm

    Anyone who can get from the price of petrol to Napoleon’s penis in a few short paragraphs (and have it make perfect sense) is worthy of my undying respect. You are a genius x

  • Bump

    2008/07/09 at 7:33 pm

    You know… That hundred pound subwoofer is kind of killing your awesome gas mileage, thus making the squeezing into that tiny clown car kind of redundant. Plus where will you put the groceries?

    In other news; I saw the Napoleon thing on the history channel. The reporter was accurate. I giggle!

  • Colleen

    2008/07/09 at 7:35 pm

    I’d feel a lot sorrier for you if my six-foot-nine husband didn’t commute to SLC every day in a Civic. Yep. And that is why our house is for sale.

  • ol time reader

    2008/07/09 at 7:36 pm

    hey dooce, just checking in on you. just buy a prius already!
    get on oprah and with that kinda exposure you could buy a coupla prius-es — pri-i?

  • Mira

    2008/07/09 at 7:39 pm

    I am totally googling that now. lol

  • Wendy

    2008/07/09 at 7:40 pm

    I LOLed at the “baby! BABY!” thing. Just about sums up my husband’s attempts at getting into my good graces after he spends 62.50 on one, ONE autographed Indiana Jones card.

  • Ely

    2008/07/09 at 7:41 pm

    I wonder if you pulled up to the stop light and the car next to you heard the bass in the voice of the reporter keep saying “Napoleon’s Penis.”

    I bet he’d think “nice woofers”

  • Michele

    2008/07/09 at 7:43 pm

    I hope the stereo don’t pop the windows out.

    My hubby thinks there is no such thing as too loud in a car… I think he is just trying to drown the rest of us out.

    Love your site.

    First time poster
    Long time reader

  • Auds at Barking Mad

    2008/07/09 at 7:47 pm

    This is brilliant. Yes indeed a Honda Civic was made for men like my husband, a short British dude. It’s ok, he’s used to all the Hobbit jokes by now.

    Just the same, it will be a cold day in hell before he reads this. He’ll use it to justify getting the mother of all stereos put into MY Volvo. He says, because he intends to get Sirius worked into the deal too, that I’ll be able to enjoy BBC1. Sure I will…I’m not the cheeky Brit in this equation. I’d never see my Volvo again, and I’d be stuck with his ugly green Subaru!

    Nope, gonna tell the hubby your site was down for the day…and maybe the next week too. Hell, lets shoot for a month.

  • sarah

    2008/07/09 at 7:47 pm

    Saved by a penis. Even though you agreed with Leta when she said boys are bad.

  • Heather

    2008/07/09 at 7:47 pm

    I had a similar situation when my husband upgraded ou tv. After much begging and pleading from him I finally agreed to a 56″ television. 56! I came home from work to meet the delivery man and what appears? A 61″ television gets dropped in my entrance hallway. He still contends that it was a company error and he did in fact order the lesser tv. I may never really know.

  • Mental P Mama

    2008/07/09 at 7:49 pm

    I love this whole thing. Seriously. Little Napoleon.

  • Laura

    2008/07/09 at 7:50 pm

    I just about peed myself laughing at this. I think I hear you driving by my place right now with your boombastic stereo.

  • Stacy

    2008/07/09 at 7:51 pm

    I am *so* going to form a band called Napolean’s Penis.

  • Marnie

    2008/07/09 at 7:54 pm

    HA, HA, HA! Thank god my hubbie is from a country whose music is not as big on the bass, or else our Civic would look like yours right now!

  • Mothering Two

    2008/07/09 at 7:56 pm

    LOL!!!! ooh, come on, now… civics aren’t THAT small. ya’ll will be okay.

    how old is jon? make sure he downloads, “baby got back.” he will be the coolest kid on the block.

    seriously, jon, big, bass-y, loud speakers is so, eh, 90’s. you are the dude hal and i would be snickering at if you pulled up beside us blaring music. but hey, if i had to pick a way to act out a mid-life crisis, i’d take hal buying big speakers any day.

    remember jon, its not how big it is, its how you use it.

    okay, stopping now.

  • Kris

    2008/07/09 at 7:57 pm

    I can’t believe Napoleon’s penis was entertaining enough to fill an entire 15-minute segment.

  • Erin

    2008/07/09 at 7:57 pm

    We have a Jeep, and the air conditioning works great — but with the price of gas right now I never want to run it!

    Glad the penis helped you out with the smaller vehicle issues. 😉 Thanks for the laugh.

  • gingela5

    2008/07/09 at 7:59 pm

    My husband and I are going against this whole “going green” thing…we just bought an SUV! We’ll be regretting here in about a month when I’ll be selling body parts for gas!

  • Liz

    2008/07/09 at 7:59 pm

    I’m just wondering if your gas savings were totally negated by the price of the stereo upgrade?

  • Anonymous

    2008/07/09 at 8:00 pm

    Randomly enough my 2000 Honda Civic also sucks donkey balls when it comes to the AC no matter how many times you get it charged or looked at it’s like one of those hand held battery powered fans that you kept on your desk in the 5th grade to keep you “cool”! BOO!

  • Cassie

    2008/07/09 at 8:01 pm

    I drive a ’95 Honda Accord down in good ole Atlanta. The AC went out last fall, which wasn’t a huge deal at the time, but then March came and with it Summer (you’re from the South- you know that Spring is all of three weeks). Up until last month I was baking my ovaries in Atlanta heat and sitting in it during Atlanta rush hour every evening. I guess I saved gas, but I’m just hoping I can have kids some day.

  • Jannie

    2008/07/09 at 8:02 pm

    Poor Jon, every boy needs at least a couple of ponies.

  • Kathleen

    2008/07/09 at 8:03 pm

    A few months ago my dad switched out a near lifetime of GM cars, and his full sized van, for a Toyota Yaris due to gas prices. The front isn’t actually too bad but I don’t think anyone much taller than my dad’s 5’10” frame would find it too enjoyable and he’s basically the limit on the back. Other than that “little car” is a pleasure to drive and much easier on the wallet than the van.

  • Stephen

    2008/07/09 at 8:07 pm

    I have a 2-door 2000 Honda Civic. I feel your pain.

  • Katie

    2008/07/09 at 8:07 pm

    Rasputin’s penis is also on display in a museum in Russia. I’ve seen it. It’s the size of a baby elephant’s trunk.

  • Jen

    2008/07/09 at 8:09 pm

    I got my wisdom teeth out when I was 26 and living with the guy who is now my husband. (Stay with me here – it’ll make sense in a second.) After I came out from the wonderful codeine haze, we had surround sound in our bed. (Yes, we have a TV in our bedroom. It makes it easier to watch porn. Ooops, did I say that outloud? Honestly, the TV is to watch Meet the Press on Sunday mornings while lounging in bed because the late Tim Russert is my kind of porn.) Seriously. Surround sound. SURROUND. SOUND. Who needs surround sound in their bedroom?

    Baby, baby, baby didn’t get him out of that one either.

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Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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