Thursday, January 11, 2007

On Olfactory High Alert

As I walked into Deborah’s house yesterday afternoon, I detected a very different smell. My nose seems like it is on high alert for new scents. It wasn’t food. Had there been a problem, an accident, or what? Should I ask?

Just then Jen, the petite Chinese woman who lives with Deborah, walked in with a can of paste floor wax. She and Deborah’s husband had decided to wax the hardwood floors. So that was it. It actually started to smell good once I knew it was legitimate.

This experience and my recent saga with the garlic concentrate made me realize how defining is that first smell that greets you when you open the door. You can often know that there is smoker in the house, that a garlicky dish was on the previous night’s dinner menu, or even that something spilled in the oven.

For a long time we have feared that visitors to our house are greeted by the smell of the occasional pet vomit, pee, or poop that have graced our floors. Perhaps we have just become used to these unpleasant smells.

Of course pet smells have been totally overshadowed by the heavy garlic smell. Every day as I open the side door to come home, I try to convince myself that the odor is fading.

Then there’s the recent attempt to cover up the garlic with room freshener. The other day I was greeted by the heavy perfume of a plug-in that my husband had bought. It was unbelievably gross. So I unplugged it, put it in a plastic bag, and hung it outside on our fence immediately.

Let’s look at this in a positive way. What are the smells we might like to encounter upon entering someone’s house?

– Chocolate chip cookies baking.
– Lemon-scented Pledge furniture polish.
– Pleasantly scented laundry detergent.
– Some wonderful wood burning in the fireplace.
– Nothing at all.

Personally I am all for nothing at all!

For someone whose nose seemed to be off-duty for a long while, my sense of smell now has returned completely. I’ve never been more aware of the role that smell plays as a welcome mat!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would give almost anything to regain my sense of smell. It effects sense of taste as well, so not only are my nose & ears blocked but I am not interested in food.

But sometimes "nothing at all" becomes my "smell" of choice as well.

2:08 PM  
Blogger Kristin said...

My house smells piney. I'd love to move the firewood outside but people tend to steal it in my neighborhood. It's rather unfortunate. I'm not a fan of the fire smell.

3:52 PM  
Blogger Mother of Invention said...

I used to know which massage therapist was in our office on any day when I walked into our house. You could smell the massage oil that each one liked to use...they were both pleasant fragrances and just a hint. I figured I got aromatherapy for free!

They always say to bake something if people are coming to view your house to buy because it makes it seem homey and inviting.

10:35 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Kate -- I agree that smell is so important because of its relationship to taste. Maybe there are ways to boost your sense of smell.

Kristin -- Piney doesn't sound bad to me.

MOI -- Massage oils are the best, especially lavendar. And there is not much that beats the smell of a pie or cookies in the oven.

10:53 PM  
Anonymous ImaginaryGirl said...

I vote for nothing at all. I'm acutely aware of smells because I'm actually allergic to fragrance. Not only can I not wear anything with fragrance added (that would be the worst -- I couldn't escape the smell), but I can't be in a room where it is. I actually am great with and love almost anything natural -- cookies baking, gasoline, logs burning, flowers, even garlic and onions. But I immediately get migraines and nauseous from anything synthetic (like perfumes and air fresheners) and anything highly concentrated (like essential oils and incense). I have to run through the makeup section of department stores while holding my breath, make sure that all products used on me on fragrance free (including massage oils, and avoid being close to or in a small place with anyone wearing fragrance. It is an absolute pain.

I often wonder if I'd like fragrances if I could tolerate them. It is hard to imagine that I would choose them if I could -- our own natural smells, and the natural smells of fresh flowers or cookies baking or fresh air or lemons are so much better to begin with; I just wouldn't want to compete.

11:59 PM  
Blogger steve said...

Hey!!! you know what will cover up that garlic smell? Go get 4 pounds of shrimp and leave em set out for a few days... Garlic smell gone!!!

9:51 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

ImaginaryGirl -- You and my husband would get along well. Just one whiff of smoke or perfume puts him over the edge.

Steve -- I think I'll take strong garlic over rotten shrimp. Shrimp shells in a trash can can give off a powerful odor!

9:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like nice clean nature smells. Having all these pets, and many inexpensive carpets has finally convinced my husband that the humid South is a good place for flooring. Doesn't trap odors!! I use Febreze.

12:12 AM  

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