Copyright 2001 Linda Marcas - All Rights Reserved
Crank's Corner: by Linda Marcas
A couple of months ago, my mother sent my husband an aromatherapy machine as his birthday
present. It's this cool little gadget that vaporizes specially-blended oils that are supposed to alter your mood
and promote mental and physical health by way of your nose. The oils that came with the machine are
called "Relaxation" and "Stress Relief," and, while I can't make any claims for their efficacy, they do smell
nice. The pamphlet that came with the machine is full of New Age hoodoo doo-doo claims about the
powers of smells, and the concept is working its way into many aspects of our culture. Out with bad smells
and in with good smells; heaven help us if we chance to sniff anything at all unpleasant!
Perhaps our greatest concern with odors comes in the realm of personal hygiene; we all know the
old stories about how our ancestors seldom bathed, prefering to cover up their stench with perfumes. We,
on the other hand, are enlightened and modern; from head to toe, at all costs, we must always smell
perfectly pleasing and fresh. Myriad mouthwashes, tongue scrapers, toothpastes, Breath Assure, Binaca,
Tic-Tacs, Clorets, Lifesavers, and Certs provide us with constant protection from the embarassment of bad
breath. Deodorant sprays, roll-ons, and soaps keep our armpits inoffensive, because no one should ever
smell like they work for a living. Women, delicate flowers that we are, have special needs; deodorant
tampons, pads, douches, and feminine hygiene sprays guarantee our sugar-and-spice image. Remember to
take some Bean-O if you're having chili for dinner, because you certainly wouldn't want anyone to catch a
whiff of the after-effects you might suffer! Finally, for smelly feet, we can use sprays, powders, and Odor-
Eater shoe inserts, with activated charcoal.
After going to all this trouble to smell like nothing at all, you'd think we could leave well enough
alone, wouldn't you? But oh, no, we can't stop there! After-shaves, perfumes, and unisex colognes make
popular Christmas presents, because we're always using them up and needing more. Scented shampoos
soaps, body creams, and after-bath splashes; talcum powders and hand lotions: we arm ourselves with an
olfactory arsenal before venturing out to do battle with a smelly world.
Doing the laundry? Get scented bleach so the clothes don't have that chlorine smell. Buy Gain
detergent, so towels that you washed three weeks ago smell like you did them yesterday. (Who has that
many towels, that they can sit around for weeks before you need to use them?) Use Downy fabric softener,
so the folks who might buy your house stand in front of the linen closet, enraptured by the scent of your
sheets. Don't hang your clothes on the line where they might get bombed by a passing bird; you can get that
sunshine smell just as well in the dryer, by using the right toss-in product.
In the kitchen, Pine-Sol cleans and freshens floors and surfaces, Wildflower Medley Dawn dish
soap cuts grease in fragrant fashion, and Arm & Hammer baking soda in the special boxes knocks out any
refrigerator or freezer odors that get through those special odor-stopping plastic bags and cling wraps.
Don't forget to change those boxes every few months, unless you want fish-flavored ice cream and oniony
milk. Simmer a pot of cloves and cinnamon sticks on the stove, so it smells like you've just baked a ham
and an apple pie, even though you're on a diet and avoiding those calories.
When you move into a new apartment, rummage through your boxes while the moving men are
still there, hunting for your Wizard Crystal Air Fragrance Gel in the attractive glass disk. Four weeks later,
you haven't unpacked the rest of the boxes, but the room still smells good. After you've lived there a while,
perk things up with a Hamilton Beach True Air machine, that inhales odors so you don't have to; once the
air is clear, fill it up again with the Ambi-Pure Home Fragrance Collection or set a mood with Glade Candle
Scents in special holiday fragrances or standard year-round ones, depending on how you feel and whom you
want to impress.
Cleaning the toilet is nobody's favorite job, but, unless I have the flu or a bad hangover, my nose
seldom gets close enough to one to smell whether it has "bowl breath" or not. I don't go around challenging
other people to stop by and sniff my potty to see if it isn't the freshest one on the block; my momma taught
me more manners than to play "my toilet can beat up your toilet." Nevertheless, this issue is one of great
concern to many people, at least if one judges it by the number of clip-on automatic toilet
cleaner/deodorizers there are. Clorox, Lysol Cling, Vanish Acti-Scents, Ambi-Pure, and Glade all promote
perpetual potty purity, and, if even these are not enough, we can suplement them with various stick-ups,
dial-a-scents, plug-ins, and one-touch fresheners. At all costs, a bathroom should never smell as though
someone has just been in there, even if they have.
With all those chemicals in the toilet, you should probably keep the lid closed so that your dog
doesn't drink out of it and poison himself. If his breath still smells like he's been drinking out of the toilet,
or just like doggy breath in general, feed him Science Diet Oral Care dog food to cure the problem. If
you're a cat person but you don't necessarily want people to know it as soon as you open the front door,
Fresh Step cat litter with motion-activated odor fighters helps your cat keep the litter box smelling fresh
with every swipe of her paw. Clumping litter, scoopable litter, and now both Arm & Hammer and Tidy
Cats have introduced Crystal Blend, whatever that is, each with its own claims of special deodorant
properties. Between litter changings, keep boxes fresh with any number of litter sprinkles; if all else fails,
invest in an automatic litter box that scoops itself.
After a few years of trying to smell like a rain clean gingerbread pine forest wildflower meadow
with a tropical breeze blowing through it, your house might need a little extra help to be odor-free,
especially if Rover or Puff tend to be territorial or have an "accident" now and then. Febreeze fabric
freshener works pretty well; the more I use it, the more I love it, if one can be said to "love" something in a
spray bottle. But if your vacuum cleaner has finally choked on its millionth helping of Carpet Fresh, you'll
have to call in the artillery: Stanley Steemer for carpets and upholstery to rid your home of pet odors and
the lingering effects of Uncle Edwin's cigars, after which you can start the entire process all over again.
In the simpler days of our youth, our olfactory obsessions could be satisfied by a few sticks of
incense, some patchouli oil, and a little paper pine tree to hang on the rear-view mirror in the micro-bus.
Did our noses become more sensitive as we aged, or is it just that our wallets grew fatter, and Madison
Avenue smelled a change in the air pollution? How much do we spend on all this stuff, that the companies
that make it can afford so much advertising? We might be older, but perhaps no wiser; life stinks, and it
smells like money.
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