Contents of glove compartments, and/or gentlemen’s rules for living

My father-in-law, who is 73, has what his family consider a strange quirk: he will not abide the presence of anything in the glove compartment of his car except maps, gloves, sunglasses, and the car’s registration. They’re even stacked in a specific order. When shE. Thorp and her sister were children, their mother would put tissues in the glove compartment, in case of ice cream spilled in the back seat; but on the next car trip the tissues would be gone; Dad would have thrown them out. This happened many times. Apparently, tissues in the glove compartment = unacceptable.

He has never explained this, being a fairly reticent and conservative man of his generation. My wife, like her mother, has always been baffled by the tissue–glove compartment issue, and has mentioned it often (“Why does he do that?”). Maybe he has OCD, but what I’m wondering is whether his age and station contribute to his behavior. He was born in 1931 and raised upper-middle-class in a small town in Pennsylvania, and he has practiced law in the same small office in his hometown for over 40 years. His political opinions are very liberal, but everything else about him is very conservative.

Through my own movie-shaped lens on his generation, I imagine him learning from his father: “Always shave with a real blade, son, not those newfangled electric razors; never wear brown shoes with a black suit; you’re not dressed without a handkerchief in your pocket; men’s wristwatches should have leather bands, not metal; and glove compartments are for maps, gloves, sunglasses, and registration. [This above all: to thine own self be true, etc.]”

Were any Dopers taught similar “rules” as young men in the 40s or 50s, or does anyone know of histories recounting such “how to be a man” All-American trivia passed from fathers to sons? (My own father is not from America, so the man-to-man trivia he kindly shared with me varies a bit.)

In fact, I don’t seriously expect an answer to the tissues question, but I’d like to know how, around 50 years ago in the middle classes or so, a man was taught to be a man, or a “gentlemen.”

It’s a pain having to dig for that registration and insurance while the “man” is comtemplating drawing a loaded weapon on you for taking too long. :stuck_out_tongue:

It’s not meant to be like a women’s purse. Real men keep thier glove boxes neat and simple. :wink:

WHY has no one in the family thought to ask this guy why he does/did this? Am I missing something here?

I don’t know why. My wife’s answer is that the whole thing was a strange, tense conflict between her parents (who are now divorced) since before she can remember. I posted in the hope of learning a reason that comes out of American culture, but if there’s isn’t one, that’s fine.

Since people quite often do things for less than logical reasons, I’d love to see you or your wife ask the gentleman just “why” he did this. The world would be a better place, and our ignorance would be satisfied.

Is he fanatical about the rest of car? Is the trunk just so and the ashtrays unused? You find a lot of these people at classic car roundups.

I must have violated a posting rule to the effect of “get to the point as soon as possible.” What I meant was (with typo corrected):

Any social historians out there care to take a stab at this? Thank you.

Well my dad emulated John Wayne. Considered by many in his generation to be a “real” man’s man. Boy’s were taught not to cry, be ready to fight, and know how to fix things. Many in his generation were in the service during WWII and were taught to be orderly and organized. I could go on . . .

My Googling has been fruitless, but here are a few illustrative lines from Auden:

Somewhere between that parody and John Wayne lies the answer I seek, I think.

In the country club locker room:

“How long have you been wearing women’s panties, Al?”

“Since my wife found a pair in the glove compartment.”

A man can’t be too careful. :rolleyes:

Words to live by,

Back when I was a tyke in the 1950s, there were certain things that were acceptable/mandatory for a glove box and certain things that were optional. Everything else was “whatever.”


Owner’s manual
First aid kit
Small tool kit
Sunglasses (although over the sun visor was the preferred spot)


Bottle opener

So in my circle, your mother-in-law’s tissues would have been okay, as long as they didn’t take up space needed for something more important.

As for how we learned all these things, it wasn’t just father-to-son. There was a whole network dedicated to teaching and reinforcing “the right way.” Grandparents and uncles were powerful reinforcers. We learned it in school. We heard it at the barber shop. It infused popular culture. Go back and look at one of the old '50s sitcoms on TVLand. Notice how the families all eat dinner together in the dining room, the mothers always wear dresses and the fathers always wear jackets when going out, etc.

Contents of my own:


I have to say I agree with your father-in-law. The glove box is not a place where extraneous crap should accumulate.

[QUOTE=E. Thorp]
My father-in-law, who is 73, has what his family consider a strange quirk: he will not abide the presence of anything in the glove
The old bastard is right,
That is what a tradional glove box is for.
Leave the poor old bugger alone. You should be ashamed of yourself to question his rituals in preparation to drive . When you can change your own tyre then maybe you can talk. Ten bucks says you would ask him to change your flay tyre.

Doesn’t just about everyone know how to change a tyre? I could immagine that a few would not like to because it is a dirty job, but actually to not know how?

Does your father in law wear garters with his socks, and those coiled spring bracelety things that keep shirt sleeves tidy? Those are relics of the age that my father used to wear.

Forget quirks – the owner’s manual should be in there, for the benefit of the driver and anyone who needs to work on the car. Anyone who stores the owner’s manual outside the car is a fool.

Sadly, there’s a large number of folks who don’t know how, or feel they don’t know how. With the general reliability of modern tires, and the proliferation of road service plans, the incentive to learn the skill isn’t what it used to be.

  1. I know how to change a tire, but my father-in-law doesn’t. He also refuses to pump his own gas. (‘Tyre’ and ‘petrol’ for our drive-by guest.)

  2. Thanks, kunilou.

I dunno. My dad was born in 1930 and the only advice he ever gave my brother is as follows…

And I quote:

“You never want to get crabs, son.”
“Um… OK Dad.”
Dad’s glove compartment is a catch all, but his tool room is an organizer’s dream. Everything in it’s spot and a spot for every thing. Everything in order. Maybe there’s a little OCD in every man.

In my experience, once you put anything into the glove compartment, it never comes out. Tissues will escape the box, and wind up in a wad occupying most of the box and obscuring anything else. Chap-Stix melt all over everything else. Hairbrushes accumulate hairballs. Dark glasses become opaque from all the scratches.

My glove compartment has the owner’s manual, the registration and insurance card, a tube of touch-up paint that came with the car, and one cassette tape that I put in there one day, and have never taken out (see?).

Why not? It beats having the stuff accumulate on the back seat!

Things are a bit different in my current truck, since it has so many places to store things, but here’s what I have at the moment:

Glove compartment: Owner’s manual, registration, proof of insurance (required by law in this state), adapter plug for trailer wiring (in case I rent a trailer), extra cotter pin for trailer hitch. “Pocket Naturalist” reference cards (birds, mammals, plants…).

Door pockets: Maps. Lots of maps. I love maps.

Sunglasses compartment (above rear-view mirror): Garage door opener. My sunglasses don’t fold flat, so they don’t fit here.

Center console: Music. A couple of screwdrivers and a wrench. Spare lightbulb for turn signal light (they come in packages of two and I changed one a few weeks ago). Napkins. Lightweight gloves. Sunglasses. Spare change in special holder (nickels, dimes, quarters–no space for pennies). Credit card receipts from gasoline purchases. Two pens and a pencil.

Ashtray: Pennies. Cell phone.

Under the back seat: Jumper cables. 100’ of rope. Short tow rope. Jack. A couple of bungee cords. Tow hitch (I usually have the one with the 2-1/4" ball in the receiver, and the one with the 2" ball under the back seat). Spare pair of leather work gloves.

My previous vehicle had a tiny center console and small door pockets, so much of that stuff lived in the glove compartment.