The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

July 12, 2012

Detail shops and other things we take for granted

By Adam Smith
adam@athensnews-courier.com

— I woke up Saturday morning full of domestic pee and vinegar, with an agenda of items I aimed to get accomplished on a sunny day. I fired up the weed-whacker, mowed the lawn and trimmed the hedges.

After taking my car to have the oil changed, I decided I would give my car a bath, as it had been several months since it had one. My wife Lensey had told me previously we should consider having our cars detailed by “a professional,” but I thought, “Why pay someone $100 for what I can do myself?”

I at least had good intentions. For the low, low price of $14 or so, I bought some car cleaning materials at a car parts store. I was determined to make my $2,000 compact car — referred to sarcastically by my sister as “the silver bullet” — look like $2,200.

My at-home money-saving car detail plan was going great until I slid my pinky between the back bumper and the lip of the trunk.

In one of those slow-motion moments, I immediately knew something very wrong had happened. I pulled my finger out and thought at first it was only a painful scratch, but then my life’s blood began to pour on the driveway. It seems as though my finger had found the only piece of jagged metal anywhere on the trunk.

After using a towel to stop the flow, I sat around for a few minutes debating on whether it needed stitches or not. Problem was, I couldn’t remember if my tetanus shot was up to date. I knew I didn’t want lockjaw, as it might impede the espousing of my philosophies and singing George Jones songs in the shower.

What I secretly feared more than anything else, however, was contracting the flesh-eating bacteria. By now, we’ve all heard the story about 24-year-old Aimee Copeland, who contracted necrotizing fasciitis while zip-lining in Carrollton, Ga.

Prior to coming to Athens, I did a little time in Carrollton, Ga., as did my car. I secretly wondered if it could be a carrier of the flesh-eating bacteria.

I knew I didn’t want to face having to spend the rest of my life carrying my pinky around in a jar of formaldehyde, so I decided the emergency room (not one in Limestone County) might be the best way to go.

Lensey graciously agreed to drive me and pity me, as most medical facilities give me the heebie-jeebies. She sat with me as we waited for four hours or so. Even my Robert Redford-esque looks couldn’t get me back any quicker.

While we aged, we met an older woman who wondered worriedly if her husband would ever return from running an errand. We observed a couple who shrieked at the discovery of a spider dangling from a plant, a kid with a hurt arm that would not stop shrieking and a kid with a hurt finger who I later heard screaming bloody murder while getting stitched up in the triage area.

After finally seeing a doctor, he informed me my finger would indeed have to be sewn shut. After some quick shots of lidocaine (which was more painful than the injury), he proceeded to hem up my finger while making small talk. I was in no mood for small talk and looked away the entire time.

Every once in a while Lensey, who was watching the doctor intently, would make a disgusting face as if to say, “Ewwwww…that’s gross.”

After getting woozy, I laid back on the hospital bed. The hospital loan shark then came in to claim my co-pay, which she said would be $100. That made me even woozier.

So, follow me here. The $100 I tried to avoid paying to a car detail shop has now grown to $114. (Co-pay + $14 cost of cleaning supplies = $114.)

The insult to my thrifty spirit was not complete however, as our pharmacy of choice was closed by the time we emerged from the hospital, several hours after we arrived. So, we had to use another pharmacy that we previously used, but now no longer accepts our insurance.

Without proper coverage, the cost of some antibiotics that make me nauseous came to about $50. That brings the grand total of my at-home car wash to $164, not including additional charges to our water bill for increased water usage during this grand experiment gone horribly awry.

I woke up Sunday morning with no way to hold my pinky that didn’t hurt, but I was determined to finish what I started. Lensey had to go to work, but asked me before she left what I planned to do.

“You just need to take it easy,” she said, though I had no intention of driving around in a half-washed car.

So, probably to the amusement of my neighbors and anyone else who drove by, I finished washing my car using only my left hand. It took twice as long as if I had two hands, but it served as a good lesson on what we take for granted, like hands.

I realized I had also taken for granted the countless numbers of fly-by-night businesses along University Drive in Huntsville, willing to clean my vehicle for the low, low price of $100 or less.

It’s a mistake I won’t make again.