Thursday, July 01, 2004

What smells?

I haven’t driven my car in a while, and when I got into it yesterday, it smelled like cat pee. Gross, I know. I’ve heard that cats sometimes crawl underneath cars and sleep on the engines for warmth, but it has been almost 85 degrees the past few days. I can’t imagine there are too many shivering strays running around right now. Or maybe some cat just liked my snazzy Honda Civic so much that he wanted to mark it as his own. I may never know.

In any case, I’m stuck with a car that smells like a Port-o-John. I thought it would go away if I just drove around for a while with the windows open, but no luck. I stopped at a gas station to pick up an air freshener, but the only scent they had was musk. I’m no chemist, but isn’t musk the same thing as sweat? So my option is to have a car that smells like pee, or like pee and sweat. Just throw in some sour wine and it’ll be like driving around in the Paris subway.

This isn’t the first time I’ve had to deal with a smelly car issue, so you’d think it wouldn’t upset me so much. A few years ago when I went on vacation with some friends, I parked my car in my parents’ driveway for the week. My parents live on a 3-acre wooded lot, so they had the room. When I got back from vacation and drove my car home, I immediately noticed that something just wasn’t right. There was an odd smell coming from the vents, and every time I turned the fan on high, I heard a kind of thwapping noise.

This odor wasn’t a faint, “Hey, do you smell popcorn?” type smell. This was thick and rank, and not going away. I actually remember thinking at the time, “This smells like death.”

I dropped my car off at the auto repair shop to have them check out the problem. When I picked it up the next day, the mechanic tried hard not to crack a smile as he handed me my keys, along with an invoice for $175 that said: Removal of mouse debris. As it turns out, a little country mouse decided to climb up into my car and get cozy. Maybe he was ill, maybe he was in debt, or maybe he simply dreamed of a better life in the city. Whatever the reason, he chose my car as his final resting grounds.

As tragic as his passing may have been, I really had a hard time accepting that it could cost $175 to fix this little problem. Removal of mouse debris? I imagined the mechanics in full surgical scrubs, with tweezers and gauze in hand, like some warped game of Operation: “Take out his spare ribs for $100! It takes a very steady hand!”

In reality, I’m sure they just turned a garden hose on full blast and sprayed it under my hood a few times. Then they probably high-fived and butted chests, laughing as they wrote out the bill for $175.

This time around, I don’t plan on seeking expert intervention to investigate this smell – I’ve chosen to tough it out. And I just picked up a new air freshener: Country Apple. I think the mouse would have liked that.