When I opened the car door, I caught a whiff of something unusual and recited Will Smith’s line from “Independence Day” when he pried open the alien spaceship to welcome the alien who had come to destroy the earth.
“What is that smell?”
Rolling my eyes, I leaned in to smell the child seats in the back. Someone in potty training must have leaked. I wasn’t taking any chances. I took the seats out, took the covers off, and threw them all in the washer with an extra dose of Buff City laundry detergent. They came out smelling so nice. I reinstalled the car seats and left the windows open for the day. Problem solved.
The next day the odor was back. There must be old food in the car. The grandkids leave a lot of crumbs and uneaten snacks in the back. I’ll surely find something under the seat. I thoroughly vacuumed the car, finding lots of crumbs, lollipop sticks, and snack wrappers, but nothing very offensive. No rotten cabbage or open ketchup packets. No dirty diaper. I drove around with the windows open that day, and much of the smell went away. Mission accomplished.
One day later…
“What is that smell?” It was worse than ever. I can’t drive around like this. I’ll pass out. I had just had the car in for some routine maintenance. For the first time in a few oil changes, I took it to the dealer. They always check the cabin air filter and usually try to sell me a new one. No one mentioned it this time, so I just assumed it was OK.
After watching a YouTube video on replacing the cabin air filter, I unhinged the glove box, popped off a few clips, and exposed the cabin air filter. When I pulled it out, it was covered with white fuzz and bits of black foam rubber. Strange. But as soon as I pulled it out, I knew this is where the smell was coming from.
I threw it out and headed to the auto parts store. When I got home, I went to slide the new filter in but noticed there was still a little bit of fuzz in the slot. So I began to pick it out. There was more than a little bit. It looked like all the filling from a stuffed animal had been packed in, probably by a mouse who thought this would be a nice place to build a nest. The mouse had also chewed off some black foam rubber insulation for extra comfort.
After I pulled out some mouse fur I came across some internal organs. So that’s why my car smelled like someone had died in there. Someone had died in there. I am not an expert on mouse anatomy, but I think I saw a liver and a little bit of intestine.
I thoroughly vacuumed out the filter compartment. I reached inside and pulled a bunch of dried leaves and pine needles from beneath the fan blades. I sprayed the new filter with Febreeze and slid it in. I clicked the glove box door back into place and ran the AC for a little bit. I may have caught a whiff of dead mouse, but it quickly went away.
I don’t remember seeing any mice running around our house or yard. My across-the-street neighbor had plenty of them running around in his attic before a rodent-control guy caught them. He had mice because my other across the street neighbor thought it was fun to throw peanuts, bread, chips and other leftover food into nearby vacant lots to feed the wildlife. Unfortunately, the wildlife near us includes rats and mice. Thanks a lot. Yes, I’ve asked him many times to quit. That plea goes in one ear and out the other.
In addition, I drive that car just about every day. We don’t leave it sitting in the driveway more than a day at a time. So either the creature worked all night to build a nice little nest. Or he came back repeatedly to finish the project.
Cause of death? I don’t know. The mouse may have gotten stuck and starved to death. He or she may have gotten chopped up in the fan. Carbon monoxide poisoning? I don’t know.
But my car smells so nice.