Monday, February 18, 2013

"Jay Don't Smell So Good..."

...that's the humorous way a former co-worker used to introduce me to new people, upon learning that I have no sense of smell.

Got to talking with a friend last night about my nasal impairment (as Ambulance Driver likes to say, my nose - large as it is - is purely ornamental). I was asked if I'd always been without a sense of smell - as far as I can remember, yes; although there was an incident when I was 12 whereupon I suffered blunt trauma to the head (I fell down a flight of stairs; don't ask, it was one of those things that 12 year old boys do...) that might have hastened the demise of my sniffer.

I then related a humorous story related to my lack of olfaction. When I was a wee lad in the throes of secondary education, I dated a comely young lass (not the one who would become Mrs. G.) who once asked me the question that all men dread:

"Notice anything different about me?"

Now - you have to understand something here. While I may pride myself on my situational awareness when walking about in strange cities or taking my family to a questionable part of town, it is positively abysmal when it comes to noticing things as they pertain to the fairer gender. The Mrs. once cut her hair from halfway down her back to a pageboy cut - and I didn't notice for three days (in my defense here, I had returned from a conference in Fort Lauderdale where - to save money - my MS advisor had arranged a rental car for four graduate students to drive down to the conference from New Hampshire. I was a little off my game even for me).

So I looked and I looked, and I checked everything: Hairstyle, makeup, clothes. Nothing. The hour of reckoning was upon me.

"Um... You've lost weight?"

(guys, when you are honestly and truly clueless, this is really the one safe answer).

"No, that's not it"

(and with that she moved in real close)


I looked again. And again. I studied *everything*. Sherlock Holmes had nothing on me. Still I kept coming up empty. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Bumpkis.

At that point I had to concede defeat. She was indignant, telling me that I never noticed anything, that she didn't know why she bothered, etc. And then finally,

"I'm wearing a new perfume!"

Well, I didn't help things any by laughing. Just as she was about to storm out of the room, I managed to get out that I had no sense of smell.

All of a sudden, the many instances of me "not getting it" made sense...

That is all.


Anonymous said...

I have the opposite problem. My sense of smell is between a beagle and a bloodhound.

I noticed one my co-workers at the time smelled really good and asked her what she was wearing. She told me her new perfume was called Cinnabar.

I told my wife how nice Cindy smelled and got the ice glare for a few days. I knew better to ever bring that up again.

Any time after that if Cindy need a favor, I notice she dabbed on the new perfume.


Brad_in_MA said...


Your schnoz may be purely onramental, but what a schnoz it is. On a different note, t;he word is 'bubkes'. Here ends your Yiddish lesson for the day.

Stretch said...

My Uncle Bob lost his sense of smell due to a head injury. Still told his mom that her apple pie was the best thing he ever smelled.

Dave H said...

When Dad gave up smoking he discovered he didn't like the smell of Mom's cooking. Mom got mad and quit smoking too, and discovered she didn't like the smell of her cooking either.

I'm starting to think a sense of smell might be detrimental to relationships.

Sailorcurt said...

Do you have a sense of taste? A co-worker of mine lost his sense of smell in a car crash and, I presume since taste and smell are so closely related, don't taste so good either.

I enjoy going to lunch with him because he never complains about what we choose to eat...doesn't matter to him, he just buys the cheapest thing on the menu.

Anyway, just curious.

Ed said...

Don't go all mouth breather on us because of diminished sense of smell. Your nose also removes particles, humidifies and warms air before it gets to the bronchioles and alveoli in your lungs, plus protects your lips from sun damage as it casts a shadow and gives you something to focus on when you intentionally cross your eyes.

Ross said...

Friend of mine relates that after he got his deviated septum repaired, he discovered that ketchup had TASTE. He also discovered that hospital food can taste GOOD... which kind of surprised his nurse.

HerrBGone said...

Anosmia. I know it all too well. I have suffered (and on occasion benefited) from it for as long as I can remember. As to the loss or diminishment of taste as a result, I have no baseline for comparison. Sometimes my sense of taste will try to make up for my 'not smelling so good.' That can be, um, unpleasant depending on what's being tasted in the air.

I did actually smell something once. We were driving through Lincoln Maine. Anyone who's been there will understand. X^p

Paladin said...

I thought that I was alone in this. Motorcycle wreck when i was a kid killed my sniffer. I still have "smell memories" though. I just see a picture of a bottle of syrup and I can smell it.

The Old Man said...

Lost mine about 40 years ago working with anhydrous ammonia pre-OSHA (no, wiseguy, it was blue-printing not meth-making). On my last job I had occasion to go to dairy farms and sewage treatment plants and other places of that "air". Usually wound up telling my co-workers to stop gagging and look professional...

instinct said...

So Jay is the exception to the rule of "He who smelt it, dealt it"?

Roadkill said...

I am in a similar shape with my nose. But what i like to do to mess with people is to feign crying about my disability when they do something like that.

dagamore said...

note to self, never try and win a game of fart in the car with Jay, he always wins, and never knows when you start one.

HerrBGone said...

"... and never knows when you start one."

Unless you call an audible.

Anonymous said...

Hi to a fellow anosmic. Like you I have no recollection of ever smelling, so it is either congenital or was damaged (head injury, some viruses, some prescription drugs) when I was too young to remember having had it.

Regarding Sailorcurt's comments on taste, most people have some 40 million odd smell receptors and only a million taste receptors, and get a combined sense of "flavour", which is therefore heavily weighted towards smell in terms of input to the brain. If they loose their smell ability then they are reduced to one fortieth of their normal input and it is also very distorted by their normal expected weighting factor, hence they do not recognize much from before and so say they cannot "taste" anything either. We congenital anosmics have a "pure" sense of taste alone. Some think that it is probably better than most peoples, as it is all we have and so use it more in compensation (comparable to blind people often using their hearing more acutely). Some anosmics are also fussy about food textures, but not me.

Jay, does your common chemical sense still work ? This is a separate system from smell and lets you detect certain strong chemicals (it is what makes your eyes water with chilli for example). Mine works, so I can tell if a glass contains water or pure vodka, but all types scotch also appear exactly the same to me as the vodka if tested this way (with a blindfold - this was serious student research you understand), my chemical sense can detect the high amount of volatile alcohol when under the nose, but they do taste very differently to me.

The only think I may have ever smelt is fairly pure Isopropyl alcohol, I can detect it if I deliberately try to "smell" it, and on one occasion (and it is still the only occasion) I became suddenly aware that some was in the room with me (it was being used as a solvent for a household product). But this may just be my common chemical sense again. With it I can really tell something is there, unlike ethanol which I can just sense as volatility. Ammonia makes my eyes water, (as for strong chilli), but I cannot recognize what it is in the way I can with isopropyl alcohol.

Do people frequently forget that you cannot smell ? My mother right up to her death in my late 40's never seemed to remember until after she said something along the lines of "does this milk smell off to you ?" My wife is better, but I am not sure she really believed me when I said I had no sense of smell at all until one day something was on fire under the grill and I was sitting at the table reading and oblivious to it (in my defense the smoke level - it was stratifying nicely in text book manner - would have got down to my eye level fairly soon afterwards anyway). Funnily enough I am keen on smoke detectors in any house I live in, I wonder why ?

However on balance if you had to choose one of your major 5 senses to not work, smell is probably the least disabling on a day to day basis. I wonder if anyone does trained assistance dogs for anosmics ?

Patrick (in the UK)