If I could I would live in a sterile, hermetically-sealed bubble decked out like an IKEA flagship store display. And then there's my car. It doesn’t rise to the level of the TV show “Hoarders,” but it’s somehow become a repository for boxes, comedy merchandise and umbrellas. None of this, however, explains the rancid odor that took up residence in my car last week. It smelled like a cranky toddler shat in my glove compartment.
I opened the driver’s-side door and the aforementioned stench grabbed me by the throat and tried to choke me out like it was the end of an MMA cage match. I grabbed the Febreeze (yes, I keep a travel-size bottle in my car) and began spraying. I searched for the source: a forgotten takeout container, a landfill, a stanky toddler?
I sprayed the smell into submission, but minutes later it came back stronger than ever. I felt like I was fighting the Terminator, not Arnold but the blond chic in the hot, red leather suit. She was relentless and so was this smell. I needed professional help but my therapist recommended I go to a car wash.
My intention is to get my car cleaned once a week but it ends up being more like once a quarter. Anything more frequent is too stressful. It’s not just the elements. It’s New York City. There are open hydrants, construction site dust, and pigeons with poor bowel control. Sometimes it’s just easier to let my car stay dirty.
It’s also a good theft deterrent since it’s harder for criminals to see through my dirt-tinted windows. But if anyone had broken into my car while it smelled like a rancid diaper, I’m sure they would’ve been laid low. And I’d possibly be facing an involuntary manslaughter charge.
With a bit more sleuthing, I finally narrowed the problem down to a milk spill. I had bought a Box O’ Joe from Dunkin Donuts for my book club meeting and didn’t realize that most of the milk had spilled on the rear floor mat. The subsequent smell had not only seeped into the mat but was actively working its way into the fiber glass.
I explained this to the car wash guy and he suggested the deluxe car wash with a separate rug cleaning. He originally said it would be $4 to do the rugs, but then he opened the back door and upped it to $6. It was still cheaper than abandoning the car and buying a new one, so I said yes.
When I picked up my car 15 minutes later, I was impressed. It looked and smelled good. It wasn’t until much later that I realized I wasn’t admiring the mats, but the factory installed rug underneath. The car wash guys may have cleaned my mats but they never put them back. Did my mats require a HazMat team? Did the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) intercede? Either way, I was out six bucks.
So I went back to the car wash the next morning to get my money or my mats. They found the latter and claimed that I had left before they could put them back in. No matter. I was just grateful that the mats weren’t in a police evidence bag; and that no one was waiting to question me about carpet fibers, suspicious dairy stains or the whereabouts of any missing rug rats.
I was a bit surprised though when the car wash guy walked up and simply handed me the bundle of mats. I said, “So … I get the pleasure of putting these back myself?” And I guess he too was stunned that I would call him out on his poor customer service. Apparently, he is not a regular reader of my blog.
He remembered himself, took the bundle from my arms, and followed me out to my car. He quickly put the mats back but not before I caught him surreptitiously looking around for the offending toddler.