One of the most amazing things about the human brain is how it can recall previously forgotten events due to outside stimuli. Studies show that the strongest recall hits because of our sense of smell. You're walking along and you get a whiff of something wonderful or malodorous that immediately transports you back to the first time that scent graced your nostrils. The smell of baking bread takes me back to my childhood home; the blend of crayons and dirt takes me back to memories of an old boyfriend; the joining of ammonium and dog food sends my nose reeling back to the days of working at a doggie daycare facility, a smell that made me throw away the shoes I wore there. There are things that I've completely forgotten about until my nose picks up on something long-lost and buried. In this particular instance, it was a combination of smell and sound that jarred my memory.
I had been stuck in a federal proposal writing workshop for two days. I know, I know, I get it all the time. People come up to me and ask, "How do you think of these death-defying pastimes?" more often than not. I hate to tell you, finding such epic projects just comes naturally. Anyway. During a break in the training, I walked into the bathroom and immediately heard a soft pfffffft. The smell of violets wafted to my nose shortly after the puff and I realized what the sound was. I had set off the automatic air freshener simply by walking into the room, and I was insulted. I didn't stink and the cheeky freshener hadn't even given me the chance to decimate the bathroom before it just assumed that I would be unbearable. It's a rare day when I allow inanimate objects to insult me so. I bitterly grumbled to myself as I washed my hands, but then I stopped. This was no different than the air freshener that was of almost vital importance at the liquor store.
The air freshener at the liquor store was just as cheeky as the one in the workshop bathroom. It would pfffffft when it didn't have to, and it would refuse to do it when we needed it to. Luckily for us, there was a button we could hit for an immediate burst of Apple Cider or Fresh Vanilla in dire cover-up emergencies. Unluckily for us, the air freshener was far above our heads, mounted high on the wall, taunting us. We would hold our breath until the rank offender was gone before we would grab the broom and start trying to hit the air freshener like a plastic, perfumed pinata. Even on its boldest day, the cheeky air freshener could not overpower the palpable, toe-curling funk that accompanied a few choice customers.
The absolute worst funk came from a customer I only helped once. Dreugh had helped him before and was keeping his distance, a warning sign I should have picked up on. The man was very large, but also very kind when he walked in, so I was unsuspecting. When he got to the counter, a wall of reek slammed into me. The smell of burnt asshole wading in a sea of rotting plums nearly bowled me off my feet. Trying not to be rude to a customer who was actually being polite to me, I carried on a conversation with him, all the while trying to back away as imperceptibly as possible. Jash unfortunately took notice and chuckled as he nudged me back towards the counter with his elbow. I held my breath and tried to hide my grimace behind a smile. The bio-hazard man bid me a very pleasant farewell and left. Fresh air has never tasted so sweet since, and the air freshener got the workout of its life.
My least favorite person-generated odor is one that radiates off of hardcore smokers. I won't lie when I say that I kind of enjoy a little bit of cigarette smell on a person (particularly on guys). I don't want it permeating my clothes, house, or car, but when there's the faintest aroma of cigarette smoke on a guy, I don't mind it. When you smell like you've been rolling in tobacco leaves and festering in chew since birth, I start to mind. Combine the stewed-in-tobacco smell with a set of long, curling yellow fingernails and you've got yourself the stinky GP lady.
If you were to put stinky GP lady in a black robe, you'd only be missing the hat to make her look like a witch. Her voice sounded like her vocal cords had been put to a belt sander and then chucked into a cement truck full of pea gravel for years. Her gravelly voice came with the bonus hacking death rattle that only the most determined near-corpse can produce. Every time she coughed, it sounded as though the gunk in her lungs were trying to crawl out, all the while wetly clunking about her esophagus until it finally breached her mouth, where it became the hack of a tumorous bear that had been lurking in her oral cavity. She was always decent and she had a good sense of humor, but her breath could have singed the hair off a wooly mammoth. That kind of tobacco breath not only smells bad, but you can actually feel it in your nostrils. Stank GP breath feels the way that yellow, grimy smoker teeth look. It lays in your nose like the gunk left behind by years of inhaling tar and nicotine. Thinking back on my encounters with stinky GP lady, I wish I would have had some sort of toothbrush for my nose, some way to scrape the cigarette plaque from my olfactories.
Everyone smells bad from time to time. It's an unfortunate reality. Another unfortunate reality is that it doesn't matter how nice a person is, you will remember them best for how they smell. Now if only that damn air freshener would stop going off...