"The past is the only dead thing that smells sweet." Cyril Connolly, quoted in "Journals and Memoirs" by David Price-Jones.
Our weekly alternative newspaper runs a quick poll of people on the street for a column they call "Street Talk". It's usually an inane question and the answers are often even dumber than the questions. A few months after I moved to SLO, a New Times reporter nailed me as I was leaving a downtown spa and asked if I'd answer a question for the column. At first I said no, because they always take your picture and I had that greasy post-massage hair thing going on. He promised me it wouldn't show up in black and white so I said okay.
The question was, "What one piece of advice would you give people if you could?" Blissed out from my treatment, I blurted out the first thing that came to my mind: Get a massage! Although it was fine advice, as soon the words were out of my mouth, it sounded contrite . I begged to change my answer, but the guy snapped my picture and took down my name and occupation without giving me a second chance. The photo turned out fine but I was embarrassed by what appeared opportunistic in print. Of course the silly massage therapist is going to recommend massage. How about some real advice like never pick your nose while driving over railroad tracks or white pants make your ass look bigger?
This week's poll asked, "Which of your senses could you live without?" Most everyone answered smell. I would have said, "common" because I don't have much anyway. heh heh. Okay not on the spot I wouldn't have but now that I've had time to ponder, I know I couldn't have chosen any of my tactile senses. That's like asking which of your kids you could live without. See? Stupid, stupid question.
The idiocy of the question didn't stop me from imagining life without smell, however. Although it'd cut down on impulse eating after snorting the aroma of my neighbor's grilled steaks, as one who sniffs her way through the world I can't imagine life without smemories. You know what I mean, right? Those times you get a whiff of something and it brings with it a wave of memories attached to the scent. For example, sheets dried on the line bring back wonderful smemories of helping my mom bring the laundry in from the back yard and later, falling asleep to the cottony fragrance of come-summer. The smell of mail sends me back to the tiny post office in the town where I grew up. I loved reaching into the little box to retrieve the pile of hand-addressed envelopes that carried the scent of faraway places.
Recently I paid six dollars for an old, half-empty bottle of Musterole on eBay. I bought it purely for the smemory of my mother rubbing that stuff on my chest before wrapping me in torn strips of flannel. I don't remember being sick, just feeling very loved and nurtured. So much so that when the bottle arrived, I carefully removed the lid from the familiar green jar, closed my eyes, and breathed my way back through forty years. I might not be able to talk to my mom on Mother's Day anymore, but thanks to the gift of smell, she still talks to me.