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November 14, 2010 12:00 AM

Pay to clean the car your kid threw up in: Etiquette from Tom and Ray

Dear Tom and Ray:

I have an etiquette question. Consider the case of three families, all friends. Family A gets a new Escalade with all the bells and whistles. It is Daddy A's baby! Family B has a teenager with a history of motion sickness. Sure enough, Teenager B vomits in the Escalade. Daddy A is irate. The B Family feels terrible, and is about to offer to pay for complete detailing/cleaning services, etc., when it learns that Daddy A -- while cleaning up teenager B's vomit -- proceeded to vomit in the Escalade himself. We are Family C, attempting to remain neutral. But we secretly think Daddy A is kind of a jerk. Any suggestions, other than Dramamine?
-- Jim

Tom: Well, Jim, this certainly gets the prize as the most disgusting letter we received this week.

Ray: Daddy A may indeed be a jerk, Jim. And getting irate at the poor kid for having motion sickness doesn't help his case. But he still deserves to have his car cleaned by Family B.

Tom: Right. Daddy A's loss of lunch was directly precipitated by Teenager B's blowing of chunks. He was trying to clean the pre-chewed cookies off the floor mats, and he suddenly realized what he was picking up, and blew a grocery geyser himself.

Ray: This kind of chain reaction happens all the time. See: Chartered Fishing Trips.

Tom: But it's fair to say that Daddy A would not have passed a gale-force burb in his own car had Teenager B not shouted at his or her shoes first.

Ray: Right. So, since Teenager B was responsible for both his or her own cookie yodel AND Daddy A's jazzing up of the carpet, then Family B is indeed responsible for having the Escalade cleaned and detailed. And they should offer to have it done immediately, before anyone else rides in the car and goes for the second chew.

Tom: I hope that clears everything up, Jim. But if not, under no circumstances should you write to us again.

(Car Talk is a nationally syndicated column by automotive experts (and brothers) Tom and Ray Magliozzi. Write to them at the Car Talk website.)