Scents And Sensibilities

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that you’ve decided to be a rebel and want to try to make it through a day without being overly scented.  That, just this once, you’d like to not carry around the wafting essence of mint on your person, or you’d rather not smell like a slightly overripe holiday fruit basket.

Yeah, good luck with that!

The reality is that in modern America we are being bombarded with scents.  If you’re in a hotel and are using the hotel shampoo and soap, you’re going to be subjected to the fragrance of their choice — and God knows what it might be.  When you go to wash your hands in the bathroom at your office, you’re probably going to have your hands immersed in still more scents.  And in many office buildings and hotels these days there are aromas periodically being  released, automatically, in public areas. 

It’s become a pretty smelly world when you stop and think about it.  We’ve moved far beyond the little plastic container of Glade that your Mom used to keep in the bathroom.

And here’s the additional thing:  it’s not just one scent anymore.  The modern smellmakers aren’t satisfied with, say, plain old sandalwood.  They’re hard at work coming up with new and highly peculiar combinations of smells that leave you guessing about what the actual combined smell actually is.  What, exactly, might “Kitchen Mandarin” smell like?  Does the “Mandarin” refer to a kind of orange, or an ancient Chinese potentate?  And if I squirt the “Vanilla Eucalyptus” foam on my hands, am I going to smell like a Christmas cookie, or a cough drop, or some ghastly scent in between?  And, even more fundamentally, it seems terribly unfair to present people with these puzzling, shot in the dark choices when they are washing their hands and just want to move on with their days.

Can’t we just call a truce on the development of new tinctures, and offer everyone an unscented option?  Would it be possible to go back to soap just smelling like soap?

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