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Somebody has a car. Maybe he owns it. Maybe he just bought it, probably blowing a fortune on it. Maybe it was "borrowed" from his dad. Maybe it has been surreptitiously stolen and needs to be transported somewhere in one piece. In any case, there is one important rule to remember: the rarer the car is, the more expensive and exotic and classic it is, and especially the more a character fawns over it as though it is one of the most important things in the world to him, the less likely it is to make it through the movie or TV episode in one piece, much less intact. In fact, it's not terribly uncommon for said car to get utterly demolished during the course of the thing, either through sheer bad luck or through the mistake of lending it to (or having it stolen by) someone who Drives Like Crazy.

Compare Broken Treasure, which this trope can turn into if the car is demolished. When this happens with what you're wearing, you've got yourself some Doomed New Clothes. When the car does not belong to one of the main characters, it's The Precious, Precious Car. Dreaded Car Makeover also has some relation, in that the person's car also ends up being given a makeover so ridiculous that they can only express shock and horror at seeing the "modifications" of the car.

See also Captain Crash.

Has nothing at all to do with A Good Old-Fashioned Paint-Watching, unless you didn't watch the paint job and are making appropriate fixes.

Examples of Watch the Paint Job include:

Fan Works

  • In Dark Yagami, Soichiro panics when his car's paint gets scratched... by a nuclear bomb going off in the street.
  • In the Animorphs AU fic Elfangor's Folly, Al still loves his Mustang. The Yeerks, however, are not about to let him get any satisfaction.


  • Maybe the most famous example, the 1961 Ferrari 250GT California from Ferris Bueller's Day Off. ("Less than a hundred were made. My father spent three years restoring this car. It is his love, it is his passion." = "this car will be horrifically damaged beyond repair for comedy/pathos purposes.")
    • Of course, in a mild subversion, the car is not totaled by Wacky Fratboy Hijinx, but by Cameron deliberately kicking it in anger, causing it to crash right out of the showroom.
  • Richard Hayden's Plymouth GTX convertible in Tommy Boy, which he brags about copiously near the beginning of the film, is gradually reduced to a complete wreck missing most of its bodywork.
  • Charlie Croker's Aston-Martin DB4 in the original The Italian Job is established early on in the film as a prized possession which Croker maintains meticulously. Needless to say, once the Mafia ambush Croker and his gang on an Alpine pass, the DB4 is destroyed in short order by being pushed off the edge of a cliff - though not before one mobster remarks what a "pretty car" it is.
  • In both versions of Gone in Sixty Seconds, "Eleanor" is a Mustang (a '73 Mach 1 in the original; a '67 Shelby GT 500 in the remake) that winds up being the very last car that needs to be stolen and transported in mint condition to the buyer. Naturally, this is the car that winds up being the one Maindrian Pace/Memphis Raines can't get away with easily, so the inevitable police chase ensues. In the original, this results in the car being battered beyond recognition during the chase (and eventually replaced with an identical yellow '73 Mach 1 found at a car wash in a ridiculous but funny Deus Ex Machina), while the remake has Eleanor mildly damaged in the midst of the chase (one rearview mirror gets knocked off) and, once it's delivered, destroyed by the villain for no good reason other than he's a jerk.
  • Most installations in The Fast and the Furious franchise have some example of this, though Dominic's Dodge Charger in the first film (which was built by his late father and is revealed midway through the movie to be some sort of intimidating uber-car) getting completely pulverized by a semi truck in the movie's last drag race is the most remembered instance of this. The funniest example would be Sean from Tokyo Drift wrecking Han's Skyline S15 Silvia S15 Silvia with a Skyline engine because he just can't drift.
  • The Bluesmobile from The Blues Brothers. It receives a brief but moving moment of silence from Jake and Elwood shortly after its (hilarious) demise.
  • More than one James Bond car has befallen an untimely demise - the most famous being the DB5, which winds up smashing into a brick wall at the end of its gadget-deploying, smoke-screening, seat-ejecting oil-slicking chase in Goldfinger. The BMW 750iL from Tomorrow Never Dies and the Lotus Esprit Turbo from For Your Eyes Only also meet bad ends. In The World Is Not Enough, the car is sawn in two (BMW actually paid for this). Bond cars usually fit the "fawned over/talked up = doomed" prerequisite of this category since they're typically unveiled by Q Division as an incredible gadget-filled marvel of technology. James Bond has long since gotten to the point of Lampshade Hanging this, as Q will, after lovingly describing the car's features, reproach Bond to bring it back in one piece this time.
    • In Die Another Day Zhao's entire rare car collection ends up raining out of the sky and into the rice paddies of North Korea.
    • Bond's Aston Martin is totaled in Casino Royale after it flips 7 times, which earned a Guinness world record for most rotations in a continuous car flip. Might have gotten something for 'highest-cost damage in a single vehicle accident' if Bugatti Veyron owners didn't tend to total their supercars.
    • In A View to a Kill, a police captain bawls out some hapless officers for having wrecked their squad cars during a chase, and says the cost of the cruisers will come out of their salary, unaware that behind him his own cruiser is being crushed by the counterweight of a drawbridge.
    • Averted, however, in GoldenEye; the BMW gets the usual rundown in Q's laboratory, but never once gets used in a chase scene (as the vehicle used in the film was the only prototype available, and BMW wasn't about to go trashing it before it went out to the market). Instead, we got a tank.
    • The demise of the DB5 was also slightly averted as well. While it did remain out of comission for the second half of the Goldfinger movie. The car did ride again breifly for the next film, Thunderball.
  • The revered white Dodge Challenger R/T in Death Proof, which Zoe and her friends go well out of their way just to get a chance to drive, winds up in pretty bad shape when all is said and done.
  • Han Solo is terrified that something is going to happen to the Millennium Falcon in Return of the Jedi. The radar dish is knocked off, but it comes back mostly intact. (Lucas actually did want to have the Falcon be destroyed, but common sense prevailed.) His fears may not be so far off—in the Expanded Universe, he was hired as a tutor for Lando, who is still not exactly the world's greatest pilot.
    • Fortunately, at the Battle of Endor, Lando had a Sullustan piloting for him.
    • In the Expanded Universe the ship qualifies more literally. The Falcon as we know it is not what it was at the start of its life, as it was rebuilt from the ground up with entirely new parts, effectively making it another ship. Why? Because the original owners, who cherished it very much and hoped to eventually make it theirs, got it shot to hell and eventually sideswiped a bulk freighter.
  • The '79 Camaro Z-28 in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, owned by the school's star football player and crashed by a stoned/drunk Spicoli, who attempts to shrug off the whole thing: "Relax, all right? My old man is a television repairman, he's got this ultimate set of tools. I can fix it." ("Fixing it" in this case means smashing it up even more and spray-painting it to appear as though a rival high school's football team has vandalized it.)
  • The drive (pun not intended) behind the plot of Risky Business is that Joel needs to raise money to fix his father's Porsche 928, which he should not have been driving, after it falls into Lake Michigan. Of course, that is just the start of his problems...
  • In the movie Wise Guys, Danny DeVito and Joe Piscopo's characters swipe a classic '59 Cadillac belonging to a Mafia assassin, paint it pink, then eventually proceed to batter the hell out of it as part of a death wish/act of revenge.
  • AZZKIKR, the 1967 Corvette Stingray from Con Air.
  • Detective Trupo's Shelby Mustang in American Gangster, blown up as an act of revenge by order of Frank Lucas. A maybe-maybe not Truth in Television, since Lucas' official answer to whether or not the car bombing actually happened was "no comment".
  • Dirk Diggler's treasured Corvette in Boogie Nights shows up near the end of the movie with unexplained collision damage to its front end. This is explained in a deleted scene, where he smashes it into a telephone pole while racing to save Becky Barnett from being beaten by her husband.
  • Officer Carl Bentley (David Alan Grier)'s brand new police car in Jumanji gets increasingly damaged until it is finally swallowed whole by a Man-Eating Plant.


  • Animal House - Flounder learns that trusting Delta House with his brother's car is not a good idea.
    • Of course, one could also question the brother's judgement on allowing Flounder to take his car anywhere near Delta House, since said brother had himself been a Delta.
      • The above is subtly lampshaded earlier in the film, when Otter and Boon remark that Fred Dorfman's mental state wasn't the best by the time he graduated.
  • The Jerk Jock's obsession with keeping his car safe from his 'girlfriend' in the Transformers movie more or less directly lead to Mikaela meeting Sam properly.
  • Used in Sex Drive with the Jerk Jock brother's '69 Pontiac GTO Judge, though thankfully it survives.
  • Near the beginning of Star Trek, Kirk drives his stepdad's Corvette off a cliff after being warned that if he gets one scratch on the antique, he'll be in a whole load of trouble.
  • Iron Man - Garage full of gorgeous cars from a Porsche to a Classic Mustang. Tony miscalculates the weight of his suit and kills power on the roof of his villa. He ends up crashing through several floors and on top of the nicest car in the lot. This Troper cried.
    • Later on, Tony for some reason wants to fly out of the hole he created when he crashed. He unceremoniously punts the car out of the way with a blast from his repulsor-thingies. More tears were shed.
  • The Mercedes from Doug's father-in-law in The Hangover. Although in such a comedy, you'd expect the car would get totaled - and it still manages to run from Vegas to LA in the finale (albeit with a broken hood and windows, a crashed door that doesn't open, and the interior severely damaged by an angry tiger).
  • Well, they finally did it. They killed my fucking car.
  • The Mummy Trilogy: "|No, no, not my CAR! Oh, I hate mummies."
  • Steve Bolander's '58 Impala from American Graffiti. At the beginning of the movie, Steve goes into excruciating detail explaining to Toad how to take care of it while he's away at college, including the brand and viscosity of motor oil to use and the notepad in the glove box with all the relevant info recorded. Halfway through that night, Toad goes and gets the car stolen by leaving the keys in it. It's soon recovered, though...
  • There is one scene which makes the Jackass movie worth watching: the boys rent a nearly-new car and enter it in a demolition derby. They return it on a flatbed truck with the explanation "we hit a dog." (They also forget to remove the blow-up sex dolls they had in the back seat.)
  • In The a Team film, very early on B.A.'s GMC gets crushed by a falling object.
  • Archie's dad's Pontiac Firebird in High School USA.
  • In Entrapment, the characters played by Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones get in a car owned by the character played by Ving Rhames while trying to escape from other people. Later, they arrive at their destination, and the car is wrecked. The wreck is explained in a deleted scene showing a Car Chase, where we see what caused the damage. Without it, it just makes Connery's character look like a horrible driver.
  • The Other Guys has Allen's Prius suffering all kinds of damage: crashing, door removing, hobo orgy, heavy gunfire...
  • A mild aversion in Captain America: The First Avenger. While Red Skull does give Zola the "Not a scratch" line, there is no evidence that anything untold happened to it in Zola's possession. The Directors Commentary reveals that they originally had planned to have Zola having trouble trying to get it started (turning on the radio and such), but this idea was dropped. Had the car had been trashed, it's unknown if Zola's usefulness would have saved him.
    • The car actually does show up again in the film, in pristine condition and with Red Skull driving it.
  • Cannonball has a beautiful black Lincoln Continental owned by an elderly couple who wants it transferred from Los Angeles to New York. The driver is told to be careful, but he takes it on the cross-country race. Add to this that the driver is the movie's Butt Monkey, and that black people were Acceptable Targets in The Seventies. Of course, there isn't much left of the car when he arrives in New York. Other cars, especially the green Mustang with which Cannonball Buckman continues the race, can crash as much as they want and keep healing themselves unless the plot requires otherwise.
  • In the animated version of 101 Dalmatians, Cruella de Vil epically trashes and eventually wrecks her own Cool Car in her increasingly desperate pursuit of the puppies.
  • In The Gumball Rally, one driver enters the race by getting a job delivering a Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow. Hilarity Ensues as the car gets keyed by outlaw bikers, caught in a sandstorm, etc.
  • Vincent's Malibu in Pulp Fiction. Possibly the one thing he's proudest of in all the world, and "some dickless piece of shit" ( heavily implied to be Butch) goes and keys it.

Winston: I get my car back any different than I gave it, Monster Joe's gonna be disposin' of two bodies.



  • Joanne Walker's car, Petite, continues to get destroyed whenever she's dealing with mystical stuff. By the fourth book, her insurance agent is getting suspicious.
  • Harry Dresden's car, the 'Blue Beetle' - a Volkswagen Beetle that started off as powder blue all over - has pretty much every body panel replaced at least once due to things like Harry's being shot at, attacked by werewolves and using it to run over/into a Chlorofiend (plant monster) and being on the receiving end of the attentions of some mold demons, and is only kept alive because his mechanic, Mike is 'the automotive equivalent of Jesus Christ. Or Frankenstein.'
  • The new automobile Bessie buys in Tobacco Road.
  • Gabe's Camaro in Percy Jackson and The Olympians. He specifically tells Percy and his mom "Not a scratch". It later gets destroyed by Zeus and the Minotaur
  • In Danny, the Champion of the World, Victor Hazell's car ends up ruined by the pheasants. This is especially satisfying as his barking rudely at Danny to take care of the car what was established him as an antagonist in the first place.
  • The Bangsian Fantasy Legions of Hell by CJ Cherryh has a scene in which Kleopatra and female Pharaoh Hatshepsut borrow Marcus Antonius's red Ferrari—and then run into a hostile situation which gets the car pretty badly damaged. When they meet Marcus again, with a Praetorian legion behind him and the need to take serious action quickly, he still takes a moment for, "Gods, Klea, what have you done to my car?"

Live Action TV

  • One episode of Father Ted featured a car (in Craggy Island terms practically a Ferrari) that was supposed to be given away as a raffle-prize. In attempting to "even out" a small dent, Ted reduced the vehicle to a crumpled pile of rubble.
  • In an episode of Freaks and Geeks, Lindsey's friends convince her to "borrow" her parents' station wagon to help transport their band's equipment to a gig, against her better judgement. Naturally, she is distracted by her friends and crashes into another car that was pulling out of a driveway, causing Lindsey to get grounded.
  • In the second season premiere of Burn Notice, this happens with the car Sam lent Michael. Since Sam's girlfriend is the one who bought it for him, and it's a really nice car, this is more than a little awkward.
    • In the half-season premiere Sam is forced to scrape the car to save Mike. They have to abandon it because it's distinctive, and Sam requests a moment to mourn.
    • And again, this time Michael needing to save Fi. Apparently, Michael isn't the type of guy you want to loan your car to.
  • In season 10 of Top Gear Richard Hammond used a 1964 Opel Kadett to drive across Africa. He described it as "the happiest car in the world", christened it Oliver, spent an inordinate amount of time fixing it and at one point almost drowned in a river to save the car. During season 11 he revealed he had bought Oliver and shipped "him" back to the UK at his own expense saying, "It's real. He loves me and he's coming home." Season 12 opened with his co-presenters conspiring to make Richard crush Oliver (now fitted with a Vanity License Plate reading OL1V3R) under a lorry. Hammond forfeited the challenge to save his beloved car.
  • In one episode of The Pretender, Mr. Lyle discovers that his car has been stolen. Turns out Jarod took the car to use as target practice for a series of missile launchers he was pretending to sell, then he mailed the license plate back to Mr. Lyle.
  • The early 80s Australian sitcom Kingswood Country has main character Ted Bullpit doting on his beloved Kingswood - he would never lend it out to anyone, giving the excuse that he had just hung venitian blinds in the back window or Glad-wrapped the bullbar, or some other such excuse.
    • Usually in the format "The Kingswood!? You're not taking the Kingswood! I just X'd the Y!"
      • "The Kingswood!? You're not taking the Kingswood! I just shampood the brake pedal!"
  • One episode of Warehouse 13 begins with the agents needing to borrow Artie's car. He lets them, very reluctantly, and gives them a list of rules for keeping it nice, because "when a guy gets to be a certain age he just likes to have a nice car." At the end of the episode, they awkwardly ease into telling him that his car was blown up. They saved the cassette player... Subverted because they were actually joking.
  • On Chuck, John Casey had a much beloved Crown Victoria for most of one episode before Chuck blew it up.
  • And on Psych, Lassiter has a similar love for his government-issue Crown Vic. Although it has yet to be completely trashed, it has been (lightly) abused.
  • Robert Petrie of the Dick Van Dyke Show bought a brand new car and he loved it. Unfortunately, he had to loan it to his wife...
  • In the Home Improvement episode "Don't Tell Mamma," Tim insists that Jill has to have a scratch on her beautiful 1955 Chevy Nomad repaired or it will rust. When she tells him that it's not important enough to worry about, and that she likes the car just fine the way it is, he sneaks the car out to get it fixed without her knowing... and of course drops a tremendous I-beam weighing several tons on it at the set of Tool Time.
  • In several Supernatural episodes, Dean says this to Sam about the Impala. In the pilot, Sam crashes into a building and Dean says "If you screwed up my car, I'll kill you."
    • And in the Freaky Friday episode, the idiot that switched with Sam asks Dean if he can drive. He ends up backing it into a brick wall. The Jerkass switched with Sam, and crashed the Impala? And got away with it?!
  • Gene Hunt won't be firing up the Quattro anymore.
  • Whenever Howie Munson manages to buy a car of his own, you can be sure that it will end first with Colt Seavers behind the wheel and then in a big explosion. In one episode, Colt even manages to total his own car, Howie's, Jodie's, and Big Jack's, causing everybody else to be unwilling to lend him their vehicle.
  • In the first episode of the third season of Scrubs, Elliot, in an effort to cheer herself up and turn things around, maxes out her credit for a new car that she's really proud of. Needless to say, it doesn't make it through the episode—the passenger door gets taken out by a passing truck the very second that she gets the keys (FRICK!) and then the driver's side door gets taken out by a van a scene or so later (DOUBLE FRICK!).
  • In an episode of NCIS Tony's car (an extremely expensive sports car, as though you needed to be told given that it's Tony's) gets stolen and he spends the entire episode fretting about its fate, even at one point commenting that he's not even sure he wants it back, comparing the compromised sanctity to a girlfriend who's been raped. At the end of the episode they finally find it, on a news channel, involved in a high-speed police chase a couple of states away. The thief is more-or-less unharmed, but the car is utterly totaled (cue Tony's sadface).
    • He had another really nice and expensive classic car blown up while he was undercover (he wasn't driving it).
  • Malcolm in the Middle: In one episode's B plot, Hal spends the entire episode deciding whether or not to blow a great deal of money on the most gorgeous car he has ever seen (in the end, he does). The A plot culminates at the end with the boys rolling something heavy off the roof - falling at exactly the moment that Hal pulls into the driveway.
  • The cars on Canada's Worst Driver regularly get scratched, dented, and worse (which is to be expected when competitors get behind the wheel).

Manga and Anime

  • Britain's beloved tank in Dominion Tank Police, totaled in the very first episode (although there were only four episodes).
  • Gunsmith Cats Vol. 4 features a nice little arc in which Misty Brown jacks Bean Bandit's pride and joy. It got worse.
    • Rally seems to have a reputation for this sort of thing. Over and over in the manga Rally's classic '67 GT 500 Mustang is being scraped, shot at, battered and beaten to within an inch of its life. At one point in the manga Rally mentions she can't get a rental car because nobody will insure her.
  • Tiger and Bunny has Fire Emblem's Cool Car get progressively trashed by a mecha in episode 6. He is unimpressed, and attempts to blow the robot up in return.
  • The bike from Pokémon.
  • Togusa may not look like it, but just one scratch on his van means that he'll drive like crazy down the stairs for you.

Video Games

  • The Grand Theft Auto games often have missions where you must deliver a car in mint condition... within a really short time. The most notorious one is the "Grand Theft Auto" mission from the third game, where you must deliver three sports cars within 6 minutes, unscratched.
    • To elaborate: most of the traffic in the GTA games goes really, really slow, not unlike in real life. You, on the other hand, have to drive really fast, and avoid everyone else while not even taking a tiny ping. This proves all but impossible - this troper remembers giving up and using the admin console's teleport option to get the cars where they needed to be. Oh, and given he in-game time, using the Pay 'n' Sprays is not an option.
  • Similarly, The Warriors allows you to earn bonus points for smashing up any car you come across on the street (and stealing the radio, of course!). On some missions, you actually must destroy a car (such as in Mission 5, where you avenge yourself on a small-time gang leader by smashing up his car just outside the local body shop, or Mission 7, where you must trash a car in Spanish Harlem to goad the Hurricanes into attacking you and setting that particular subplot in motion).
  • Likewise, the first Mercenaries has a side mission for the Mafia where you deliver a sports car to a buyer who's 1/3 of the way across the map. In addition to time, the car's condition affects your final reward, so every scratch and ding results in a counter on the side of the screen dropping. And of course, the quickest route to the buyer is covered over with warring soldiers and tanks who will gladly add a few bullet holes for free.
    • Saints Row has the Chop Shop diversion, which works very similarly. The instant you get into a wanted vehicle in Saints Row 2 or approach the right island in Saints Row the Third, you suddenly get a minimum police notoriety level, often three or even five stars. On top of that, the AI Drives Like Crazy at times. Good luck getting the vehicle to the chop shop in one piece, let alone getting any significant reward for it. The only good news is that there's no time limit, but given that the cops are actively hunting you down while you're taking it to the chop shop, it's in your best interest to get to the end ASAP.

Western Animation

  • Seeing as the Autobots of Transformers canon are cars, the more narcissistic soldiers will obsess with their paint jobs; Sunstreaker and Tracks are notable examples.
  • One episode of Ben 10 features the RV getting stolen. The Tennysons hitch a ride in another man's RV that he bought with his life savings. They end up stealing it from him and using it to track down the baddies. In the end, it gets totaled, and the episode somehow tries to imply that the man deserved it.
    • Ben 10 Alien Force has Kevin being particularly protective of his car's paint job; concerned enough that he comments on this despite having commented only seconds ago that he'd follow Gwen anywhere—until she leads him into the location that made him complain about the paint job.
  • Carl's "2 Wycked" car on Aqua Teen Hunger Force. Its destruction has more or less turned into a running gag.
    • And his house. And his pool. And Carl.
    • "Using a key to gouge expletives onto another's vehicle is a sign of trust and friendship."
  • In the King of the Hill episode "It's Not Easy Being Green", it's revealed that back in their high school days Hank, Bill and Dale borrowed Boomhauer's treasured Ford Mustang and took it for a joyride. Dale's attempt to drive the car backfires when his ineptitude with the car's manual transmission sends the car careening out of control ("the left brake won't work!") and he bails out, sending the car over a cliff where it sinks to the bottom of a flooded quarry. The rest of the episode hinges on Hank's efforts to keep the quarry from being drained so Boomhauer won't find out what really happened to the car.
  • Extra laughs if the car isn't actually that valuable, and is fairly average looking. A good example is the superintendents Honda in The Simpsons (though it only had its H stolen) or the Cresta in Great Teacher Onizuka.
  • Played with in an episode of Rocko's Modern Life. Mr. Wolff (Heffer's adopted dad) buys a new car and forbids the rest of the family from driving it. Mrs Wolff, who is taking driving lessons from Rocko, borrows it and ends up at a demolition derby. Amazingly enough, not only does she win the derby, but she makes it without so much as a scratch on the car. Mr. Wolff puts the car back in the garage and closes the door - wherein the shelves give way and dump everything on top of the car.
  • In The Venture Bros. episode "ORB," Brock Samson accidentally provokes his Cool Car (a '69 Charger) to attempt to kill him after he digs a bit too deeply into the details of his bodyguard assignment. Though he escapes, the car shows up again at the cliffhanger ending of the episode, and it's revealed at the beginning of the next episode that he's somehow survived by dismantling the entire front end of the car piece by piece.
  • Mission Hill: Andy's boss Ron is arrested for tax evasion, and chooses to sign the title of his sports car over to Kevin so the IRS can't seize it. Predictably, it gets destroyed at the end of the episode, nailed by a semi truck just as Kevin is giving an ill-timed speech about responsibility.
  • Cyborg's car in Teen Titans, in the first episode it was shown and built, was stolen by hoodlums, then stolen by his Evil Counterpart Gizmo from the H.I.V.E., and then possessed by the living circuitboard Overload. When Overload mocked Cyborg by claiming that he couldn't stop Overload without hurting his precious car, Cyborg calmly stated that "It's not my car anymore" and blasted it.
  • One sketch on Robot Chicken features a couple of parking attendants who take KITT out drinking and eventually wreck it.
  • In Fanboy and Chum Chum, Lenny and Boog, as part of their plot to steal Fanboy's drinking cup, decide to pick up Fanboy and Chum Chum in Boog's car in the hopes that Fanboy will put his cup in the drink holder. Unfortunately, it turns out that Fanboy and Chum Chum have just been having a competition to see which of them can step in the most gum. And now they want to pick up everybody they know for the ride. (Including a seagull.)

Real Life