It’s the fall allergy season, the worst time of year for me. Leaf mold, dust, pollen, fungus, pumpkin spice lattes and all sorts of stuff make my sense of smell go into turbo-drive, which means my nose can detect your Irish Spring soap across a crowded room of sweaty dock workers.
Adding to the misery, the women in my family insist on wearing perfume and various other potions and lotions. They don’t seem to care even though they’ve witnessed my suffering firsthand. My wife knows the effect it has, but whenever we go to an event and get in the car, I can sense a crisis coming.
Sniff … sniff. “There’s some foreign substance in the air and my nose hairs are starting to hallucinate. Are you wearing perfume?” I ask.
“But I smell something, and my nose is starting to run.”
“What’s that smell?”
“It’s not perfume.”
“What is it?”
A tense pause. “Body lotion.”
Guilty as charged.
If it’s not body lotion, it’s hand cream or moisturizing cream or an air freshener she hides in the glove compartment so I can’t see it – although I can smell it. The effect is always the same — wheezing, sneezing, then a runny nose and watery eyes. It’s as bad as secondhand smoke.
At this time of year, smells take on a sinister intensity — all smells. I don’t know why, but it must have something to do with my nasal passages becoming hypersensitive to everything around me. The sensation drives me insane, especially when someone sits next to me on the train and starts eating stinky buttered popcorn, or worse, fried chicken or — RESTRAIN ME PLEASE — an Italian combo.
It’s not that I don’t like Italian grinders with names like The Godfather and The Big Provolone. After all, I’m Italian. But that combination of olive oil, vinegar, onions, fried peppers, cheese, salami, pepperoni, and other assorted carcinogenic cured red meats brings out the worst in me.
My keen sense of smell goes berserk and makes me want to go running and screaming through the streets as if I quaffed two triple mocha lattes or a couple of red hot chili peppers. I lose all reason … even though I love buttered popcorn, fried chicken and Italian subs, as long as you hold the jalapenos and onions. Nevertheless, I learned in etiquette school that you should respect the nasal passage privacy of others, especially on a crowded train.
We have laws against politically incorrect speech, spitting on the sidewalk and carrying open beer cans in public, so it’s time to get serious about scents. I should confess, however, that I, too, make people miserable during allergy season because my nose is usually running so I’m either sniffling or sneezing or blowing it.
I’ve had more than my share of allergic meltdowns while sitting beside women and men who smell like the cosmetics counter at Macy’s. My nose starts dripping, my eyes start watering and itching, and my toes start twitching. Quite honestly, I’d prefer to smell BO.
Last week a guy reeking of Old Spice crossed paths with me, and the outcome was disastrous. The marketing gurus of these companies have young men convinced that cologne is the way to attract women, although I think it may be more effective attracting woodland creatures. I didn’t see any women trying to drag him to their apartments, but if he smelled like that in the woods, the coyotes would go after him.
The smell seemed to permeate the entire car, and in short order, he even polluted the recycled air. I suspect his nostrils were so desensitized that he didn’t realize how much stink he was giving off.
I was running out of options and had to move, so I got up and sat next to a fellow who, I realized too late, was wearing so much Ralph Lauren Polo cologne that he had either been drinking it or pouring it over his head, which can be hazardous near an open flame.
For emergencies like this, I carry a surgical mask. You see people wearing them from time to time in New York City precisely to deal with these emergency situations. In the end, however, I decided it’d be better if I just sat there and suffered instead of provoking a man whose mental capacity had already been compromised from lack of oxygen … and too many Italian subs.
Contact Joe Pisani at firstname.lastname@example.org.