Mark Giammalvo specializes in driveability diagnostics at his family business, Sam Giammalvo's Auto Sales & Service, Inc. in New Bedford, MA.
Mark, who has been with the business for
over 20 years, is an ASE Master Technician
and Parts Specialist. He also holds the ASE L1 certification,
and has an associates degree in business
(Printed in the Journal of The Alliance of Automotive Service Providers, AASP)
It all started with the complaint of an odor on a hot July afternoon. An 82-year old customer had pulled me aside to tell me about a "foul odor" in his car ever since we did his alignment two weeks prior. The customer seemed very concerned and I was intrigued as to what this odor could be and how it related to the alignment. I was very familiar with this customer's 1992 Mercury Grand Marquis. Not only had we sold it, we also had performed the majority of its service work over the years. Since the car was scheduled to go to the transmission shop for the infamous Ford torque converter rebuild, I made a note to check out the odor when the car came back.
Several days later, one of our employees, Joe Veiga, asked me if I would meet him out in front of the shop. Upon exiting the front door, there was Joe standing by the Grand Marquis. Unbeknown to me, the car's transmission work had been completed and Joe had just driven the car back. Joe asked me if I could check the car out right away. Joe stated that the car had such a bad odor that he almost became sick driving it back. Since it was about 85 degrees outside, Joe had left all the windows open. As I approached the car, I inhaled the nauseating odor. It literally stopped me at the door. I thought to myself: "Do I dare go into this car?" Let me tell you, this thing was bad. It reminded me of a car, years back, that I found a dead mouse in. However, the odor in this car was much worse. Another employee, Paul, walked by and uttered the statement: "Good God, that's enough to gag a maggot!" A quick view of the car's interior did not reveal anything unusual. Expecting the worse, very carefully and slowly, I opened the trunk. The hinges squeaked as it opened and the sun expelled the darkness. Nevertheless, other than the spare tire and jack, nothing was there. My nose told me that the odor was weak here so I headed back inside the car. I smelled each seat and floor mat, one by one. Now, in the back seat, the odor seemed to be magnified. As I peeked under the passengers' front seat, something caught my eye. It was a small white box with the word "Langostinos" printed on the side. As I pulled the box out from under the seat, Joe, who had been watching over my shoulder, shouted: "Oh, no, Langostinos!" In a flash, Joe flew out of the car. I thought to myself: "Where did he go and what does Langostinos mean?" I set the box carefully on the ground as Joe returned. After recovering from a bout of laughter, Joe explained to me that Langostinos was a form of Chilean shrimp. The mystery odor had been solved. Due to the intense heat of the past several weeks the shrimp had started to decompose. The bag, although still sealed, had puffed out to the point that it tore open the outer box. A final call to the customer brought us "the rest of the story." After asking me a few times if "I" had put the shrimp in his car, the customer had remembered what happened. The customer had purchased the shrimp at a supermarket several weeks ago. The shrimp must have fallen out of his grocery bag and slid under the seat. After decontaminating the interior with several cans of Lysol, we advised the customer to leave the windows open as much as possible over the coming week.