A recent Web Poll question asks, "Which of your five senses would you most likely give up for $5 million?" 84.8% of the respondents chose smell. Although I can understand why they feel that way, I can't imagine going through life without any one of my senses, for any amount of money, but I think it would be especially hard to not be able to smell.
I am an visual artist by profession so, I suppose, being blind would be just incredibly tough to deal with. Music is also very important to me as a performing artist so losing my hearing would be very hard too. The sense (and scent) of smell, though, is very powerful. Smells can, among other things, cheer us up, calm us down, wake us, put us asleep, make us hungry, make us sick or trigger emotion or memories.
I have a new found respect for smells having recently quit smoking overnight (http://skeetzteez.blogspot.com/2008/08/how-to-quit-smoking-overnight.html). It was really strange, at first, how smells were so strong. I smelled something burning in my buddy's basement that no one else could find the fire. It was the neighbor's bar-b-que pit... two houses down. The way I found the cafeteria at the hospital was to sniff out, like a bloodhound, the only thing they were cooking at the time-- potatoes... just boiled potatoes. People would tell me for years how bad the stench of my gas I passed was, but I didn't believe them. Now I have a hard time staying in the room with myself when I fart.
Perfume and cologne products have been around since at least 2000 B.C. and are now a multi-billion dollar industry. I wish I had realized how important smell was a long time ago. Apparently there is a reason why the "good stuff" cost $50-$60 or more-- the Chicks dig it! At least a lot more than "the essence of some fragrance you've heard of" offered in the vending machine in gas station men's rooms for 25 cents a squirt.
Not that I ever used that stuff! I was a Polo man. In fact, I'm still a polo man. Not the Polo Sport or Polo Platinum stuff, either. We're talking dark green bottle, gold bulbous lid, smellin' like you just got out of high school gym class and didn't want to take a shower in a public locker room so you'll just throw on a bunch of this, original 1980's Ralph Lauren Polo. MLW hates it so I don't wear it much but I keep a bottle around because the smell reminds me of when I was cool (or at least thought I was cool).
During a recent trip to the mall we got turned-around in a department store and ended up in the middle of the men's' fragrance section. MLW who, by the way, smells everything before she buys it (and I mean everything), went about sticking sample bottles under my snout and asking me what I thought of this scent and that scent. M3S, imitating his mother and I, proceeded to grab the samples that he could reach (and some that he couldn't) and took a sniff himself. I don't know if is in his genetic makeup or if was pure, darn luck when he proudly showed us that green bottle of Polo and exclaimed, "Mell dis, Mama. Dis mells sooooo good! Dada should buy dis pray!"
That's my boy!
He's only three-years (and has trouble with his consonant blends) but he doesn't get the concept that there is a difference between him and the older kids, or adults for that matter, so I give him a couple of sprays of my fancy cologne when I put it on. It makes him feel big and it makes me feel good that he wants to be like his Daddy.
I almost feel bad, though, that I used this little routine to trick him. M3S doesn't like to take a nap, or should I rephrase that? He doesn't like to sleep anytime! (He thinks he's going to miss something.) Well, he was getting excited when we did this cologne routine and I thought it would be fun to also spray his Teddy Bear (named not Teddy, but Barry). Barry, though, gets his own cologne, which is actually an aromatherapy, pillow spray that is supposed to make you sleepy. Since he takes Barry in the car seat and to bed with him, he has been much easier to get to sleep. Now if I can only find a smell to wake him up and clean the house.
See-- smells are powerful things, and we didn't even touch on the power that it has over your appetite. My mouth will start to water at the first whiff of a food that I really like. I bet you can't tell me that you don't get up from your desk at the office and track down the person that just microwaved a bag of popcorn late in the afternoon.
Other smells can bring back memories. After my stroke I had the strangest thing occur (besides being able to burp for the first time in my life). My memories were so vivid that I felt that I could really smell them-- almost like a photographic memory with my nose. I could smell mornings after spending the night with my Grandparents when I was very young... bacon and eggs and cigarette smoke, as well as other things like the way my 5th grade teacher smelled of BO, coffee, moth balls and Old Spice. Weird, huh? I told my recovery psychiatrist and that's all he said... "weird, huh?"
There is one smell, though, that I remember from the years in my teens when my friends and I would hang out at Six Flags. It wasn't just the smell of the park itself although it had many distinctive odors like the wooden turnstiles, landscaping mulch and lemonade stand in the humid air in the line to ride Thunder River; the strangely appetizing combination of tasty funnel cakes, popcorn, freshly airbrushed T-shirts, fryer grease and electricity from the bumper cars through the game booths up by the Screaming Eagle; or the strong fragrance of vomit, consisting mostly of-- a powdered sugar donettes and Canadian Mist-- breakfast, behind the Galaga machine in the Pac 'em In Arcade.
My favorite smell was, simply, the peaceful, clean odor of a strong, late-afternoon thundershower meeting the fresh blacktop that was heated to a comfortable 112º in the unbearable, hot, August sun. Every once in a while I will catch a bit of it drifting across my nostrils and it brings me back to our days and nights in that amusement park when our biggest worry was, "where did we park the car?" and we thought we were cool cause you could smell our Polo from 120 feet away.
No-- if you ask me, I am not going to give up my sense of smell. I'd just as soon cut my nose off. Besides, speaking physiologically, as I understand it, you would automatically lose your sense of taste if you lost your ability to smell. Therefore, you might as well just pick taste. Think of all the weight you would lose!
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