That Smelly Ol' Factory
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
Smell is an interesting sense to have. It is often subtle and unnoticed, like blinking, until we experience an extreme, like having sand in our eye or apple pie. Smell enhances it's sister sense, taste, by adding richness to the mere 7-8 flavors our tongues can perceive. Wikipedia even claims that without smell, a sliced apple and a sliced potato are indistinguishable.

Olfaction is also intimately tied with memory. The smell of the ocean may remind one of a fond vacation, while burning wood brings back the terrible recollection of a home burning down. Much to my wife's chagrin, my smell-memory seems to recall past girlfriends with hints of cucumber melon or specific perfumes.

The reception of smells is hard to mind-grip for me. It's much like radio transmission. I mostly comprehend the technical explanation, but I reel like a caveman studying a box-with-tiny-people-inside when I try to apply the science to practical awareness. Smelly molecules float through the air all around us, intermingling with shock jock and monotone NPR journalists.

The pleasant smell molecules are perfectly acceptable. I've yet to frown or grimace when taking in vanilla, cedar, or a fresh rain. However, the unpleasant smells are contrastingly pungent - I'll refrain from listing them.

The worst thing about repulsive smells, for me, is that I know that at some level, I am breathing into my person molecular slices of the source. It doesn't help when those disgusting parcels are mixed equally with painfully industrial "lemon" or "floral". I know what's being smuggled on the back of sharp restroom perfume. Like a prostitute wearing too much makeup, the attempt to conceal merely focuses the attention.

Sadly, by the time you recognize the invasion, it's too late. (Of smells, not hookers.)

Odd footnote: I've lately noticed that my own sneezes have an odd smell to them. It's not a putrid smell, probably closer to 'sweet' than anything. It's still unnerving and fairly ironic.