Is leaving garbage and food containers under car seats an American thing?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Dec 01, 2000

Dear Tom and Ray:

I work for a rental car company in Mons, Belgium, and most of my customers
are Americans. Here's my question: Why do so many Americans feel obliged to
clear all the garbage out of their homes and dump it into their rental cars
before they return them to us? In some cases, we could change the engine in
less time than it takes to clean the interior of the car. Another thing,
the ashtray is always clean, but the carpet is covered in ash and candy
wrappers. What do Americans think the ashtray is for? Finally, is it an
American custom to hide empty cans and take-away food boxes under the
seats? Maybe if I understood "the American way" it would make it more
acceptable for me. Any comment? -- David

TOM: Yes, David. I could see how, from a foreign perspective, this looks
like sloppy and even inconsiderate behavior. But it is actually yet another
example of good old American ingenuity.

RAY: It's part of America's job-creation program abroad. You might have
noticed that the United States always has among the lowest rates of
unemployment in the civilized world. And why, you might ask? Because we
Americans know how to make work.

TOM: The Americans who rent your cars are just worried about the poor
Belgians who live in your country. What if they have no work to do? How
will they feed their families?

RAY: So, when driving a rental car, the thoughtful American is likely to
take the extra time to place an empty pizza box securely under the
passenger seat. He knows that your company will have to assign, and pay,
somebody to clean out the car and retrieve the garbage. And if lots of
people place pizza boxes under seats, the company will eventually have to
hire a person whose sole job it is to fish out empty pizza boxes.

TOM: But the American, being even more thoughtful, does not stop there. To
ensure work for more of your Belgian countrymen, he has his wife throw a
half-empty yogurt container on the floor in the back, providing work for a
carpet cleaner. Then he has his kids eat some candy bars and wipe their
hands on the seats. Voila! A Belgian upholstery cleaner can also put dinner
on the table.

RAY: And, of course, you can see how the thoughtful American -- looking at
it this way -- sees the use of the ashtray as taking food out of some poor
laborer's mouth. So the thoughtful American intentionally closes the
ashtray and takes the time and trouble to scatter his ashes over various
parts of the car.

TOM: As you say, you can often replace an engine in less time than it takes
to clean out a car driven by an American. So we have succeeded masterfully!

RAY: And now that you understand the true nature of this international
humanitarian effort, David, I'm sure you would want me to extend my sincere
gratitude to the American people on your behalf. Consider it done, David!

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