Damn Spot

Five years ago this month, Josh and I bought a used car. It was five years old at the time and in pretty good shape. We had a mechanic look at it before buying it and he gave us the all-clear.

The car was about $1500 below market value because it had been in a front end collision. The owner was a body shop mechanic at a Honda dealership. He said he’d been driving the car for a month as he fixed it and had no issues. He showed us the work he’d done. It was professional work. He was very nice, outwardly religious, and a family man.

So, of course we got hosed.


Within a few weeks of buying the car, I noticed a wet spot on the carpet covering the driver floorboard. I told Josh about it. He downplayed my concern.

“It’s raining. It’s probably from your shoes,” he said.

“None of my other cars ever got wet spots from wet shoes.”

He remained unconvinced. I’d bring it up now and again, but I never made any headway. Sometimes, when it rained, the floor remained dry.

I’d feel around under the dashboard, even under the pedals, and there was never any moisture except for the spot.

It was puzzling.


The following May, the transmission went out.

I had just gone to Baskin-Robbins for a quart of chocolate chip ice cream. (Baskin-Robbins has the best chocolate chip ice cream. Yes they do. Don’t even try to argue otherwise.) I went for ice cream because it was pretty hot and nothing beats chocolate chip ice cream on a sweltering day.

I broke down on the way home, about a mile from our apartment. I did not hurry to eat the ice cream, though maybe I should have. I don’t remember what happened to it.

We decided to have the car fixed. The engine only had 107,000 miles on it – not bad for a Honda. And we still owed quite a bit of money on it.

At least we would have a new transmission.


Through the years, the water spot grew. So did a crack at the bottom of our windshield.

“I bet the water is coming in through the crack,” said Josh. “We just have to get the windshield fixed.”

“It’s not the damn windshield. I’ve been telling you about the water for years.”

“I don’t remember that.”

We must have had that conversation at least a dozen times.

Sometimes, the spot would dry up. Sometimes, the spot would be squishy.

I repeatedly insisted to Josh that we get it fixed, that I didn’t want the metal under the carpet to rust, but there was never enough money for something so trivial. The work truck constantly needed more important repairs.

Then, I was pregnant. I tried to use that to my advantage.

“Josh, please just look up under the dashboard. I can’t get down there with this belly.”

“Babe, it’s the windshield,” he’d say.

Then I had surgery and Josh missed work while I recuperated. It definitely wasn’t on my mind.

Then, we had a tiny baby and there wasn’t time to deal with it. I was too tired to even think about anything other than sleeping whenever I could.

Then, Josh was too busy with work, trying hard to catch up before winter.

There was always something else to do.


One hot and muggy day, baby carrier in hand, I opened the car door and was smacked with warm, sticky, mildew-y air.

I would be seriously downplaying matters to say that I freaked out.

So, Josh took the carpet out of the car. He had a glass company replace the windshield.

“It should be fine now,” he said. “Go ahead and research replacement carpet.”

“Why? So we can ruin another perfectly good carpet?”

“What do you mean? We just fixed the windshield.”

“Why won’t you listen to me?” I laughed.

“I’m listening,” he said.

I waited.


A car without carpet inside is much louder, even a quiet car like ours.

But you get used to it.


It was getting cold out. The car was colder inside and I didn’t want to have the water and ice we brought into the car freeze to the metal floor. So, I ordered the carpet.

When you order vehicle carpet and padding online, it arrives folded and shrink-wrapped. It needs time to unfurl.

We took it to the basement and unwrapped it. The carpet didn’t have that “new car” scent; it had “new car” fumes. I told Josh we should let it breathe awhile.

After a few weeks, sometime around Christmas, Josh installed the carpet. I’d put him off as long as I could.

A few days later, the spot hadn’t returned.

“See? It really was the windshield!” Josh said.

“It’s cold out.”

“We’d know by now if it was still leaking,” he said.

Within two weeks, a small spot appeared.

“That’s weird,” he said.

“Now will you go look for a crack under the dash?”

He took a flashlight outside with him and looked. Sure enough, there was a hole. But it wasn’t a crack.

It was a seam.

The previous owner missed a spot when sealing the seams.

I researched and found the product we needed. He bought it the next morning and sealed the seam that afternoon.

Then, he removed all the seats and the plastic trim at the floor line. He removed the center console. Finally, he removed the carpet so that everything – the floorboards, the carpet, the floor mats – could thoroughly dry. Then he replaced the plastic trim and the seats. He didn’t come back inside until after 9pm.

“We’ll wait a few days for the sealant to cure, and then I’ll re-install the carpet.”

“Thank you,” I said.


“Do you think you could find the time to put the carpet back?” I’d ask.

“Where do I find it?”

“Maybe back in January when you weren’t working everyday?”

“I worked everyday.”

“Babe, I know you missed days because of the weather.”

“When do I get time for myself?”

“When do I?”

And so on.


I was trying to get Tiny’s stroller out of the trunk today. For the last few months I’ve asked Josh to please take his tools out of the trunk because the stroller keeps getting caught on the tool box.

I don’t even know why we need tools in the trunk.

The stroller got caught on a tire iron, which was wedged into a jug of coolant, which opened and leaked all over the stroller handle – the stroller handle I was holding.

I wrested the stroller from the trunk and opened Tiny’s door with my pinky finger. I found the spare wipes in the car and wiped my hands. I wiped down the stroller. Tiny jabbered contentedly.

We headed into Target. I knew as we were stepping into the elevator that I should wait until I was calm to call Josh. I had shopping to do, I could just walk and talk with Tiny and relax. Nothing was going to change while I was in the store. And yet…

Which is how I found myself muffled yelling at Josh as I speed-walked through Target.

After my shopping, I stopped at Starbucks. I got a double espresso. It wasn’t as good as it normally is and the lid wasn’t on right. I snapped it down into place and Tiny and I headed home.


Josh re-installed the carpet today. He removed the extraneous tools from the trunk and put the tire iron in its proper place. It only took him nine months. Or five years, depending on how you want to look at it.

Tiny and I ate lunch in the kitchen instead of the dining room today. She was going to eat something with blueberries, and I didn’t want her to fling it all over the hardwood or the curtains.

After a few bites, Tiny dropped her spoon. The purple food splattered the floor and a little got onto my shoe. When I looked down to assess the damage, I noticed something at the bottom of my white shirt.

It was a teeny, tiny spot of espresso. I turned towards the window to get a better look. I saw another spot. And another. And another. I took off my shirt and held it up to the light.

There were little spots everywhere.


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