The Working Artist

  1. The Roach Coach. This was a Chevrolet fifteen passenger van that had an infestation of cockroaches. Dozens upon dozens upon dozens. In the console. Under the carpet. In the frame. Everywhere. Dead, alive, and in every stage between. Mind you, I hate cockroaches, but this is my job. So I crawled through this intrusion filled van over and over and over again. I spent weeks figuring out what combination of chemicals, poisons, and delivery methods would end this nightmare.
  2. The Coop Car. This was a Ford Focus where a rental customer had folded down the back row and zip tied a welded wire mesh between the trunk and inside the car. Then they put a layer of straw in the trunk and were transporting animals.
  3. The Crime Unit. A couple summers ago, I got a call from a local body shop about a Toyota Solara that that was a biohazard: a lady was shot in it. The bullet went through her face and the carjacker dumped her at an intersection, but somehow she survived. Let’s just say I took some extra precautions on this job.
  4. The Stolen Truck. I was hired for a stolen rental which was parked at a body shop. The shop wouldn’t repair it until it was detailed. This thing was foul. Aside from food mess, drink spills, smoke, stains, and so on, the back was piled full of personal belongings. And underneath the belongings, the carpet was covered in mold.
  5. The Catfish Charlie SUV. I got called for a Hyundai Santa Fe that had a faintly fecal odor to it. The vehicle looked fine, but stunk. I couldn’t find anything wrong though. Finally, as I was going through the vehicle for the third or fourth time, I realized that someone had opened the glove box and wiped blood bait—a goopy material made from decaying matter used for catching catfish—between the console and the glove box. Incidentally, I only recognized what happened because my dad smeared Catfish Charlie on the radiator of his cousin’s honeymoon vehicle about fifty years ago. I don’t know how they’re still friends, but when my dad got married, he hid the honeymoon car.
  6. The International Disasters. I worked on a couple of international trucks that were revolting. The cabs had trash piled almost to the height of the seats. The seats and console were sticky and plastered in spills and grime. Once I removed the trash, there was a ¼ inch layer of what looked to be spit chewing tobacco on the floor. I got sick within hours of cleaning the second truck.
  7. The Doggy Demolition. When I opened the door on this Ford F-150 rental, I saw mud everywhere. On the seats, carpet, door, etc. There was clearly a dog in the car, as evidenced by the dog hair, paw prints, and vomit on one side. Then as I started cleaning, I realized it wasn’t mud. The vehicle had feces smeared everywhere.
  8. The Maggot Magnet. I showed up for this for Ford Expedition that smelled awful. Within a couple of minutes I spotted the problem; there was a bag of food wedged underneath the middle row with what looked to once have been hamburger patties. They’d been baking in the summer sun for days, and maggots were migrating from the area. After vacuuming and removing all the visible magnets, I steam cleaned the area and the pressure from the steam would shoot these cocooned maggots out from where they had embedded in the carpet.
  9. The Vendetta. A body shop paid me to do the initial cleanup on a Ford Explorer where someone had beaten in the rear windows. The back half of the vehicle was filled with glass shards. I’ve done several glass related jobs over the years, but the volume of glass in this vehicle was crazy.
  10. The Fishy Van. I’ve seen and smelled a number of fish related vehicles—they pretty much never have a happy ending—but this one was the worst. I got a call about a fifteen passenger van where a cooler of fish had spilled. I immediately said, “Sorry, there’s nothing I can do.” However, a month later, I got another call asking me to come out and do whatever I could. Even after a month with the windows down, this van was gross. I steamed my way through it, but this was a game over situation.
  11. The Mystery Haul. Some people went to rent a vehicle. They just needed to haul some stuff, they said, and were given a new Ford Expedition. What they neglected to mention is that they would be hauling goats. They brought said new vehicle back with hair and feces and smelling like goat urine.

I’m sure there are many, many other stories I’m forgetting, but these some of the most memorable.

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