Friday, April 21, 2017

Biological Weapon of Mass Destruction

Like good Catholics and other similar faiths, we abstain from all meats except seafood on every Friday of Lent and a few other holy days within. Our garbage is picked up early Friday mornings. These two seemingly unrelated events created one of the worst biological weapons ever known to man, at least from my point of view.

On a Friday a couple weeks back, I made my famous salmon cakes for our Friday Lenten supper. Since the garbage had already come early that morning, I made sure to bundle up the salmon skin in an empty plastic bag, stick it in the household garbage and carry that out to our garbage can out beside the garage that gets emptied by a garbage truck every Friday morning. I certainly didn't want any salmon skin stinking up our house.

A couple days go by and we have another full bag of garbage. On my way to do an errand, I open the door of our minivan to allow our youngest daughter to climb into her seat while I take the full bag of garbage and add it to the outside can. Knowing full well it would stink, I held my breath as I lifted the lid, stuffed the new bag of garbage inside, shut the lid and got a few paces away before resuming normal breathing operations. As I was buckling up the youngest in her car seat, I was hit with a wave of rotten smelling seafood. I quickly hopped in the car and took off hoping to let the area clear out while I ran my errands.

However, for the rest of the day, whenever I got into the minivan, the stench was so overpowering that I would gag and cough until I could get the engine fired up and the front fresh air blowers on high.  I thought it would eventually air out and dissipate but the next day it was even worse than the first. I bought some activated charcoal which I spread in a big dish on the floor and bought one of those vent clip on air fresheners. I put a fan blowing the air onto the charcoal thinking that eventually it would filter out the odors. That evening, it still smelled just as bad or worse so I went nuclear. I bought one of those Christmas tree deodorizers that hang from the rear view mirror in the scent of vanilla and a tub of this odor absorbing paste that people put in their house after a fire to rid it of smoke smells. By now, the scent of vanilla and spring rain (scent of the clip on air freshener) were so overwhelming when I came out of my meeting last night around ten o'clock, that I could smell my car 20 feet away with the windows closed! I opened the door and despite the air fresheners, I could still smell the stench of rotten salmon! After turning the blowers on high, I drove home the five minutes it takes but by the time I got there, all the chemicals had seared my nose and gave me a headache. I woke up several times in the night and could still smell those smells.

So on day four, I opened the garage door and let the garage air out for a bit before I ventured inside but still I was gagging the entire time it took for me to back the car out into the driveway. (Which is why I skipped breakfast.) I first power washed the entire outside of the car and then proceeded to spend the rest of the day wiping down every interior surface of the van and shampooing every seat, carpet and headliner. Still, I would get whiffs of the rotten salmon smell over top of all the cleaning chemicals. I'm thinking of just setting the sucker on fire and pushing it down into the ditch.

My wife gets home and starts smelling a spot in the back of van and then proceeds to tell me how five days ago when she was out with some of her friends, they spilled some food in the back of the minivan but she had cleaned it up well and there wasn't any stain. I replied that it couldn't be that because this smell, smells exactly like rotten seafood. My wife said she had spilled octopus..... I still gave her the benefit of the doubt since one day had gone by after the spill and I hadn't smelled anything until the following day. The octopus had also been cooked so it hadn't been raw.

I started sticking my nose deep into the seats and carpet around the van and couldn't really smell anything but the overwhelming smell of cleaning chemicals until I got to the rear cargo area where the octopus spill had happened and there, it definitely smelled like rotten salmon... or as I now knew, rotten octopus. I started removing trim and was able to finally lift up the carpet in that area. The carpet itself is really thin and not made of absorbent material but adhered onto the backside is about an inch or a really dense, very absorbing foam and it was saturated with that liquid stink. Gagging, I ripped the absorbing foam from under the carpet and threw it away. Almost immediately things started smelling better. I soaked the thin carpet in that area with more carpet cleaning/deodorizing chemicals and put a fan along with the previously mentioned odor absorbing paste in a tub underneath the carpet to get it dried out again and hopefully odor free. I'll have to find some sort of replacement foam to patch back into that area eventually but at least that seems a bit cheaper than the alternative of just going out and buying another minivan.

My wife did apologize for not telling me about the spill despite two days of me telling her about the horrible smell and an entire day spent detailing the interior of our minivan, not to mention the $50 odd dollars I have spent on various deodorizing products over the last week. I think she was getting back at me for leaving the sunroof open on her vehicle during a light shower one evening awhile back. The moral of the story however is that one doesn't have to go very far to create one of the most potent biological weapons known to man, especially if like me, they like eating some octopus now and then.


sage said...

Odors can be hard to remove. Sorry for your troubles.

Vince said...

That and potatoes. It's simply impossible to get rid of the pong from fabric.

Ed said...

Sage and Vince - After getting the carpet thoroughly cleaned and dried, I could still smell just a touch of the rotten seafood smell so I bought a box of baking soda and spread it on the area and let it set all weekend. That did the trick. The van now smells like... well a ten year old van that wasn't used to haul seafood around.

Kelly said...

Oh, man.... I know this isn't funny (or certainly wasn't at the time), but you told it in such an entertaining way! I can't stand the smell of seafood when it's fresh, so I can only imagine how bad this must have been.

And Vince is right about rotten potatoes. They're deadly, too.

Ed said...

Kelly - I am a humorous person and could see the humor in it even as my arms were aching from all the scrubbing and still the stink remained.

Pumpkin Delight (Kimberly) said...

This story made me laugh. Great telling of it by you, and I think we all have experience with a mysterious bad smell. It reminds me of that Seinfeld episode! :). That feeling of helplessness while the smell gets worse and you can't find it anywhere is very relatable. Since I can't eat seafood, I've never had the pleasure of that particular experience, but just smell it makes when someone heats it up in the microwave at work, well I can only imagine. Blech! I'm glad it was figured out sooner than later.
I'll have to add that rotten citrus fruit is awful too!!