At some point in the not-too-distant past — I’m not sure exactly when — every hotel in the United States decided that it needed to stock guest room bathrooms with soap that is an apparently random combination of fruit, plant, and flower fragrances. In my latest hotel stay, the soap, as well as the shampoo, conditioner, and every other personal hygiene item, uses a lime/coconut/verbena combination. At other hotels, I’ve used soap that featured fresh mint, basil, mandarin orange, lemon, mango, sandalwood, witchhazel, organic flax seed, and countless other scents.
Why must this be so? Am I the only traveler who yearns for a bar of Ivory soap, or Dial, or even Irish Spring? It cannot be that every hotel guest wants to emerge from his hotel room, fresh from a morning shower but smelling like a riotous collection of every item stocked on the shelves of the neighborhood greengrocer. And who comes up with these curious combinations? Do soap companies now employ rugged fragrance hunters who hack their way through the rain forest, looking for new plants with new odors? Do they have labs where they test weird fragrance mixtures concocted by mad scientists?
What is verbena, anyway? I checked, and it is a flower . . . and a pretty one, at that. Doesn’t smell bad, either — it is just not what I necessarily want to smell like when I head off to a business meeting on the road.