Too Much of a Good Thing

Sometimes think it would be nice to go back to when the air could only be polluted with natural and “organic” smells


Too Much of a Good Thing
by Ghahremani

Manufactured smells that permeate in public used to be limited to occasional wafts of smoke, industrial fumes and/or fragrances. That’s changed. Nowadays, if it isn't burning incense, it's aromatic baths, scented candles, air-fresheners and God only knows what else. Even the “new and improved” household cleaners are like a cheap perfume that while failing to mask the stink, they can bring tears to your eyes.  

While it’s good to be considerate of others, sometimes the attempt to mask a pungent odor can exacerbate the situation. Personally, I’d rather smell tobacco than put up with the stink of a cab driver's extinguished cigarette added to the strong scent of that fake pine tree cutout dangling from his rearview mirror. Taxis seem to be the only cars with windows that won’t open, which enables them to hang on to their leathery smell, not to mention the last passenger's cheap aftershave, or the residue of stinky gym shoes.  

My closet is a bouquet of cedar chips, mothballs and potpourris of all kinds-courtesy of friends on my last birthday. The bathroom reeks of human exhaust mixed with that lilac-from-hell, which my husband found on sale. We clean our kitchen floor with a lemon-pine solution that threatens blindness and the oven cleaner not only removes last year's burned turkey, it is sure to give my complexion a deep peel and as I use it, I can just feel the pain of skin rejuvenation.

A gardener, I can never get enough of the scent of my roses, but I do remember complaining about the smell of marigolds. That was long before my husband decided to specialize in domestic pest control. With ant sprays, mosquito repellants and bug killers saturating the air to a mile radius, I sometimes feel I am that bug, taking what could be my last breath.

Even when the girls and I plan a day of shopping fun, our respiratory systems aren’t immune, or at least not at the department stores where a SWAT team waits, holding their spray bottles like a Mace, ready to attack. Even my magazines come with a page that smells of the latest perfume, my shampoo has the scent of an over-ripe fruit salad, restaurants use aromatic spices I can't name, and little kids play with scratch-and-smell stickers. The other day, I stepped into a Zen store and, closing my eyes, I could swear I was in New Delhi.

Coming from the heat of Iran, where body odor continues to be a problem, I never thought I'd say this, but I sometimes think it would be nice to go back to when the air could only be polluted with natural and “organic” smells.

I just heard of a new one: Burger King’s Flame, a cute prank for some, and a reminder of our carnivorous history to others. It’s spray cologne with the smell of flame-broiled burgers, “The Whopper,” if you will. No comment on that one. I’ll just have to make sure my vegetarian daughter doesn’t receive it in her Christmas stocking. Yes, it seems as though we’re done with the natural fragrance of flowers and fruits, the time has come to reach out for more exotic scents. I can hardly wait for perfumes that will smell of barf or worse.

Last week, I consulted a specialist about my most recent allergy flare-up, and he assured me that many people suffer the same. That’s encouraging. Someday I may die of an asthma attack, but at least now I know I’ll be among friends.


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Very true...

by Princess on

I agree with you completely and would like to share with you a story that I am not particularly proud of, but I think it is relevant to your article. 

A few years ago, my brother was visiting me in London. One day we were hitching a ride on a bus for a few blocks on Oxford Street, when a woman, probably in her 50s, got on and immediately announced her presence to the whole bus with the smell of the pungent perfume she was wearing. It really seemed like she had showered in it.

As luck would have it, she chose to sit on the empty seat next to me. Now, I actually get migrains from these sorts of smells and therefore get rather agitated with such inconsiderate people. So as she was sitting down I told my brother in Farsi: "Pif peef, magas-kosh be khodesh zadeh."

My brother, who is a lot more polite, diplomatic and considerate then I am, quietly told me in German to be careful, the lady could be Iranian. Annoyed as I was, I responded that I didn't care and that wearing perfume should be banned for people who don't know how to use it.  

To cut the story short, a few minutes before she was to get off the bus, she turned around and told me in the thickest of Iranian accents, that the PERFUMES she were wearing were in fact Channel, Armani, AND Poison... and that she constantly gets complimented on her perfume wherever she goes. Then she continued by saying that next time, I should be careful not to offend somebody who could be as old as my mother. Switching into Farsi she told me that she wanted to say all that in English to let me know she is very well educated and that in fact works in a library. 

Obviously, I was taken aback by her logic and her failure to realise that by what she had just revealed, she was proving my point. My poor brother apologised as she got of the bus.

Up to this day, we laugh every time we think of that incident. My lesson from that day was never to assume people don't understand whatever language I am using. I hope she learned that not everybody has the patience and politeness to tell her to go easy on the bottles through such subtle hints as "complimenting" her on her fragrance.

Thanks for writing on this topic.



I know what you're saying,

by mina (not verified) on

I know what you're saying, but, I use some of these artificial stuff once in a while, because I suffer from allergies also.

What I hate the most, is when I have to put up with a co-workers perfume for a whole day. I get a headache sometimes, and I don't know what to do. Once, my own perfume, gave some poor coworker a bad cough, for like 15 minutes, and I thought it could be me. Luckily for her, I only apply it to my wrists, so I went and washed my hands, and that woman's cough stopped. I wish there were some laws to protect people from smells, like there are laws against loud music.