Wednesday, September 17, 2008

On the Scent...

It started with tropical storm Hannah.

I had a blockage in my air intake on my car (that's what my mechanic THINKS it is) which caused the gush of water from the storm to back up into the passenger side of my car.

I mopped up the water (yes mopped it out -- that's how much water was in there) and dried it with a blow dryer. About a day later I got an engine malfunction warning and the indicator light on my transmission was flickering. Not a good sign.

$1200 later I had to have the computer chip in the car replaced as it got flooded because -- who knew the computer chip to the car was on the passenger floor? (Who thought that was a good design choice? Doesn't water get in cars often enough?) would seem the car was fixed, I'm out some serious scratch but hey, all is well that ends well, right?


I pay the $1200 ransom and open the car door to get hit with an overwhelming smell of industrial car freshener. You know, how the store area of a car wash smells or the inside of some cabs? You might like that smell but I'm allergic to scent, especially strong industrial ones. I know my mechanic was trying to be nice by putting the carpet freshener in the car as he was concerned about a musty smell but it's kind of like using napalm to roast a marshmallow.

I got in the car and tried to crack the window as much as I could in the pouring rain and start driving out east. If I could have driven with the windows wide open and my head outside I would have. My head starts to throb, eyes water, throat gets all sore...not fun.

Then I feel water dripping on my toes as I drive. I think I'm crazy, just imagining the drip but I'm not. I reach down to feel the passenger side carpet...oh I don't have to tell you.

When I get to my house I have to shower to get the scent off me (it's that strong -- like when I would kiss my grandma Coyne and smell moth balls for the rest of the day) and put my clothes in the hamper (yup they smell like it too!)

Saturday I sponge up the water and start blow drying the carpet (don't want to get that computer chip wet again!) I'm in an odd position as I'm drying, kind of half in, half out of the car. The car doors are open and unbeknown to me so is my front screen door. To someone walking by it might look like I ran (or crawled) out of my house and collapsed as I was trying to get in my car, Why do I think that? Because as I was blow drying the passenger side carpet I felt a tap on my shoulder and almost jumped through the sky roof. A lovely, fresh faced teenage girl asked me if I was okay. She had a look like she was ready to call 911. At first I didn't understand why she thought that until I sat up and saw the scene from her perspective.

"I'm fine. I'm blow drying my car carpet," I said. As if that would put her mind at ease. Yeah, I'm not dying of a heart attack, I'm just a crazy loon who lives on the main road who likes blow drying her car.

Trust me, that was the look she gave me.

"Put some baking powder on it," my friend Gina suggested.

"Put a container of vinegar in a bowl and run the air conditioning," the Internet said. (It feels like it speaks to me that's why I wrote in dialog.)

So I did both. Guess what happened?

The DRY PASSENGER CARPET got wet again, this time with baking soda on it. Oh and the vinegar fix started to work but made my car smell like pickles and industrial carpet freshener.
So where did this leave me? During one last gasp of Summer Sunday when the temperatures almost hit 90 -- I mopped the carpet back up and blew it dry again and drove back to the city with no AC and all the windows down.

I dropped it off at my mechanic on Monday and told him the news. He seemed surprised and kept saying how strange it all was. I had the beginnings of another headache (I get one whenever I get in the car now) and told him about my other problem with the scent.

He said he would fix it.

I wasn't sure which thing he would fix, the water?, the carpet which still isn't completely dry? the smell,? my headache? or the dark anxious feeling I get whenever something is wrong with my car?

I picked the car up yesterday, this time with a new windshield. Yup, the windshield that I had replaced a few weeks ago was leaking - that was the cause of the second round of dripping. I had to get another one -- yeah I know I could have gone back to the original guy and had him do it but frankly I wasn't confident it would be done right. So now I'm waiting for the rain, or a car wash (which I'm not allowed to do for a week) to see if the water problem is solved. The car still smells like carpet freshener but it's getting better.

I had a good think this morning as to why this whole mess with the car stressed me as much as it did. As I had said to a number of people, "it's not like this is my health or anything." So although it was annoying (and costly) it wasn't earth shattering.

That's when it hit me. Whenever I have a problem with my house or my car that I can't easily remedy I begin to feel like I am lost at sea with no chance of rescue. It's the loss of control. When everything is as it should be I don't question whether or not I can take care of myself, it just happens.

Over time I (like most of us) have adapted to the challenges of my childhood by making certain assumptions. My sense of security comes from being able to do things on my own. When something breaks that I can't fix I have to...oh god forbid...ask for help. I'm getting better at it but it still pushes me way out of my comfort zone.

Asking for help opens me up to the possibility that the answer might be, "no." I would rather do it myself than risk that disappointment. At least that's one of those assumptions I made years ago that I'm trying to change.

Here's the funny part though. When these things happen and I am forced to ask for help, the unequivocal, unanimous answer back is always "yes." Everyone from my mechanic, to my sister, my friends, Gina and Donna offered help and guidance. No one left me stranded, laughed at my anxiety or told me they couldn't help.

So I started with water in my car and have ended a little bit closer to shedding a useless assumption.

Disappointment be damned. Ask and ye shall receive.


Margalit said...

Teri? Is that you? You just popped into my head this morning for some reason, and I thought to myself. Hmmmm. I wonder what Teri Coyne is up to? Through the wonders of Google, I ended up here..... Wow! A novel coming out next year?! MAZEL TOV! That is extremely exciting news!

Anonymous said...


I think you might have a customer service issue!

Teri Coyne said...

Oh I definately had a customer service issue and a wet floor!