• Ken Ilgunas

What’s that smell?

This past Sunday it poured all night. I was warm and dry—content in my vehicular abode—watching the raindrops run down my windows like millions of sperm wiggling earthward. Then I heard something rather disconcerting: “Drop,” then another “Drop,” and then another and another until I was sure that my van had sprung a leak.


As the droplets increased in tempo, I imagined that I’d soon be like a aquatic mammal in a small aquarium, where spectators would come and irritatingly tap on my windows, while I shamelessly performed tricks for day-old fish.


I got out of my sleeping bag and onto my hands and knees to seek the source of the leak. Like a mime trapped in an invisible box, I palmed the span of my ceiling; towards the very back of the van, I found a pancake-sized patch of wetness. Oh no. There is a hole in my ceiling.

The next morning, I went outside and checked the roof of my car. I couldn’t find a scratch, let alone a hole. While a few raindrops inside won’t cause me too much grief, it could contribute to a larger problem that I’ve recently encountered.


That problem is the notable stench in my van. Every evening when I come home, I’m welcomed with a terrible whiff of something… I can’t quite tell what it is. It’s not always bad, but it’s never good. A fourth of the time it’s downright foul.


This is all so disquieting because I have a particularly weak sense of smell. Sadly, little attention is given to those who suffer from the tragic impairment called anosmia—the loss of the sense of smell.


While I don’t quite have that, if there was such a thing as “glasses for the nose,” I’d be wearing them. My point is that if I’m able to pick up on a few odors, then somebody in the county over might be wearing a confused expression that says, “Somebody passed gas in this room and I don’t know who.”


The week before there was a rank tomatoey-metallic stench that could snap Reagan back into consciousness. I noticed that I had left my propane tank open ever so slightly. Problem solved. Or was it? With one scent gone, other latent smells emerged.


I’m terribly self-conscious about being the “smelly guy” on campus. I have no problem with being the “nut in the van,” but for whatever reason, I feel it’s my obligation—as a member of society—to be able to extend my arms and yawn without worrying about sending those people’s noses—near and far—a-scrunchin’. I don’t care if I live in a smelly van; I just care if the van is making me smelly.


I knew I had to take action. Firstly, I made my front passenger seat the laundry area in hopes of segregating my rancid workout clothes from infecting my clean, neutral-smelling clothes. I hang my towel on the passenger seat so it’s directly in the sun during the day where it’ll dry more quickly.

I put a plastic garbage bag over my good clothes to inhibit encroaching smells and to serve as a barrier to any spaghetti sauce that may accidentally be splattered its way.

Lastly, I bought a broom at the Dollar Store for $1.50. I twisted off the handle to make it easier to use in tight quarters. Crumbs had accumulated on my floor to the point that there was an audible “crunch” upon stepping in my kitchen/lounge/dining/parlor (and what I hope will one day be a conservatory) area.

With all that said and done, as well as a fresh, clean load of laundry in the van, there is the same unidentifiable odor. Could it be the water leakage? Is there mold? Or worst of all—is it me?