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Chickening Out

By: DC Stanfa

Why did the chicken cross the road?

Because, it was dead, dismembered, partially cooked and being transported in my1998 Intrepid. It really had no choice in the matter.

As host of a camp-out picnic for my running group (which claims to be a drinking group with a running problem), I prepared most of the food ahead of time. This included par-baking 10 pounds of chicken parts, to hasten the long stint at the grill and lower the risk of underdone, salmonella-infused cuisine. My drinking group is less enthused about the kind of runs whichthat stem from the lower-intestinal tract.

My boyfriend carried the aluminum pans into and out of my car. As I supervised this task, I surrounded the carnage with towels, since the foiled-covered pans were not leak-proof.

We ran, we drank, we camped, we peed in bushes—and the chicken was ritualistically barbecued and consumed somewhere in the midst of this.

Next morning on the drive home., I had an unwelcome companion: VBS. Very Bad Smell. Upon inspection, I uncovered chicken grease spillage on the back seat. I scrubbed, I drank, I peed—no wait, I just scrubbed. Although I did get a slight buzz from the disinfectant spray. I left the windows open overnight to "air it out"—the favorite cleaning method of the chronically lazy.

My Monday drive to the office found me in a typical foul mood, aggravated by a foul odor. I detoured to a car detailer. The owner assured me, with gory details of extricating everything from pig entrails to other Very Bad Smells in his career, "There isn't anything I can't get out." After his cleaning crew proclaimed a veritable victory over the vestige, I sped away in confidence.

When I opened the car door Tuesday morning and was again greeted by that "old chicken smell," I flew in my coupe back to Mr. Detail. This was a chinoking challenge, as he decided he'd better take out the back seat, and steam clean it . He needed to keep it overnight. I told him if the smell didn't come out, he could keep it forever—as I thought about that Seinfield episode where Jerry tried to get the car stolen, because he couldn't get rid of a VBS. Later that day I got a phone call to "update" me. I jokingly asked, "So, did you find the dead body?"

"No, but we found an awful lot of maggots, some dead, some alive."

I tipped the maggot-finders $20 each, as I guiltily accompanied Mr. Detail to the Grand Opening of my car door. "Not exactly that new car smell," I whined.

"Just a little residual odor," he added. "I hope." His head-scratching wasn't as nearly as convincing as the chinoking we'd started with. "Sometimes things can get so soaked into the foam, underneath the upholstery, that you just can't get them out," he said.

"Like dead maggots and chicken grease?"

He nodded, fessing up possible defeat, "You might have to replace the seat."

I tried to absorb this.

As the week wore down, and the smell didn't, I made some phone calls inquiring about a new back seat. When quoted a towering price, I clarified "I'm talking about a car, not liposuction of my anatomy." It would also take three weeks to get one. But I knew I couldn't wait any longer when the smell penetrated my clothes and skin, and my cats began nibbling on me while I slept.

My desperation pushed me to break a rule I have about accepting advice from a co-worker.

"Have you tried a junk yard?" he asked.

"Isn't that a little drastic? I mean, it still runs okay."

"Not for the car. To find a used seat."

I roamed through an auto graveyard with a nice mullet-haired man named Mitch, who acted as if we'd just been given the winning lotto numbers when we stumbled upon an almost matching upholstered replica. I had to agree. It was the easiest $75 I ever spent.

As there should be to any story, a moral: Never embark on a journey with half-baked ideas. Or par-baked poultry.

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