What’s That Smell?




          My wife often says that I have a spidey sense when it comes to smell. I really can smell the tiniest of things, which is often not a good talent to have. I’d rather have better vision than the ability to smell a single worm after it rains. Honestly, there aren’t a lot of smells I really like, and most of them are those that occur in nature.

          Many years ago, I came up with the ill-conceived, yet oddly brilliant idea of Mandles. These would have been scented candles for men in fragrances like bacon, wood smoke, peanut butter, freshly mown lawn, new tires, lumber and motor oil. I came up with this when my wife brought home a scented candle that smelled like Queen Victoria. “They should make fragrances that men like,” I thought.

          This idea would have failed miserably because let’s face it—men don’t buy scented candles for themselves and even if they got one as a gift, they’d never light it. It’s not something we do. As it turns out, Yankee Candle had a line of candles called Man Candles. Here’s the actual sales pitch from their website:

          “Escape to the man cave with this masculine blend of spices, woods, and musk.”

          OK, on two levels, I’m shocked that this didn’t bankrupt a successful company. First off, I’ve already spoken out against man caves or anything named man cave or those that align themselves with man caves and secondly, if you do have one of these fancy rooms and you invite some guys over for football, chips, and beer, who is going to light a scented candle? “Hey, Bill—is that a Man Town candle? It’s very masculine. And where’d you get those jeans? Maybe we should go get our hair cut together. You’d look cool with bangs.” I just don’t see that happening.

          Mrs. G. does like candles though, so we’ve settled on scents that don’t make me feel as if I’m at a bridal shower. Pine, pine tree, more pine tree, and something called Bergamot orange. That’s about the extent of my scented candle range.

          We also have a few of these things called reed diffusers in the house, which consist of a scented oil of some kind, a container to hold the oil and a bunch of thin sticks that go in the container that holds the oil. The sticks wick up the oil and it makes the room smell nice. I don’t mind these with the codicil that they smell like pine, pine tree, more pine tree, and something called Bergamot orange. We had one for a while that smelled like clothes that had been dried outside, which was OK but if I wanted that scent, I’d just open a window and save $29.95.  I’m still waiting for a reed diffuser that smells like a Thanksgiving turkey.

          As a rule, a synthetic smell can take a normally good smell and distort it into something unrecognizable and unless someone tells you what it is, you’d have no idea. It’s just a few degrees off, like Brad Pitt’s brother. Popcorn scent comes to mind. The smell of popcorn popping is almost intoxicating it’s so good, but a candle that smells like popcorn smells like a fan belt burning.

          I’m not a big enthusiast of perfume either, or cologne and certainly not toilet water. Who thought naming something that is supposed to be a sensory enhancement “toilet water?” Calling it eau de toilette is not much of an upgrade. Many women like to douse themselves in this stuff, then go to movie theaters and surround me like scented bookends. By the time I’m done with the movie, I’ve absorbed these combined scents and feel like I should be wearing a powdered wig, justacorps, and stockings over my breeches. “I’ve misplaced my fan. Has anyone seen my fan? And my velveteen beauty mark?”

          I know women think men like women to smell like this, but honestly, we don’t. At least I usually don’t. My wife does have a nice perfume called La vie est belle (French for, “life is beautiful”) that I don’t mind because she uses it sparingly. She’ll puff a little in the air, back up about five feet and then leap through the cloud as if she just burst the tape at a 5K. Whatever lands on her, that’s it.

          So I guess I’m not completely oblivious as to why women like to smell like something other than themselves, but I’ll never understand why men wear cologne. I would love to give this survey to women:

          What would you like your man to smell like?

  1. Like himself, only clean and fresh. Like soap.
  2. Like an eighteenth-century French nobleman.
  3. Like Axe, the cologne for people without nostrils.
  4. Anything but fart, so could you please open the car window before I die?

          We were in a casual restaurant and had a table near the bar. There were a man and woman standing next to us who must have challenged each other to a Super Soaker cologne duel before they left the house. A nuclear mushroom cloud of actual vapors was visible over their heads. It was awful. My chicken tasted like that little cake that goes in the back of a toilet to keep the bowl sparkly. Couldn’t they smell themselves before they left the house? Is there any plastic left in their car that hasn’t melted into a shapeless glob?

          I’d be remiss if I neglected to mention something of which we are all familiar, and which most of us find equal parts disgusting and funny. We all do it, we have all done it at an inappropriate time and we’ve all laughed at our accomplishment. Especially men. Doctors call it flatulence but when they are in a room with other doctors and not trying to sound professional with patients, they drop the flatulence act entirely and let loose with butt trumpets, busting a grumpy, flute toots, cutting the cheese and boxer thunder. Most of us just call it farting.

          Our own farts are hysterically funny, but if somebody else lets one fly, they may as well have done it while slowly shuffling sideways out of the middle of a very long church pew. “Sorry about that, and that, and that one too, oh man, oops, that was a good one so take a bite out of that gouda, almost done, no I’m not, excuse me, sorry, there’s a little basso profondo for the choir, time to light some incense, hello Mr. Bullfrog, who let the dogs out—toot, toot, toot toot.”

          Having said that, here’s what happened to me.

          Our utility company, let’s call them RG&E because that’s their name, sent out a little piece of paper with the bill that explained that they add a scent to natural gas so that, in the event of a gas leak, one can smell it. Normally, natural gas has no odor.

          A long time ago, natural gas scientists got together and determined that natural gas should smell like rotten eggs and as we all know, rotten eggs smell a lot like a fart. The gas company cannot say, “If you smell a fart, run out of the house and call 9-11 from your neighbor’s house,” because there would be people running out of their houses all day long, especially during Superbowl parties. So they say rotten eggs.

RG&E          This piece of paper that RG&E sent had a scratch and sniff portion that, when scratched, was supposed to smell like a gas leak. Smartypants that I am, I did not scratch it because I know what a fart smells like.

          In the same batch of mail, we got a bunch of blank checks from our credit card company, ostensibly to show us how easy it is for somebody to steal these out of the trash and run up our bill. I have no other explanation as to why anyone would send blank checks in the mail other than to benefit clever thieves.

          I took these blank checks and the surplus of paperwork from RG&E—including the “what gas smells like” piece of paper, went into our home office, and shoved it all into the shredder.

          Well, let me tell you, they should have called that natural gas sheet thing a shred and sniff because the shredding activated the fart strip to the point where one would think I just hosted the world’s largest chili eating contest in my office. If there had been an open flame from a man cave candle within fifty feet of the shredder, it would have flared up like a runaway oil geyser.

          “What the … RICK!” Mrs. G said as she walked by the room. Now I’ll be honest— I have blamed it on the dog, and I have blamed it on the egg salad sandwich I made for lunch, and I have even taken the blame myself but I have never blamed it on the shredder. That was a first.

          The hang time on this thing was incredible. I was beginning to reconsider my position on reed diffusers, Glade plug-ins, Man Candles and whatever other scented devices I could find. In the end, I just tossed the shredder a respectful thumbs up, then a slow clap as I backed out of the room and closed the door. “Nice one, buddy,” I said. “But next time, light a match.”




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