For much of history, human beings were routinely exposed to a riotous collection of disgusting and offensive smells. Whether it was the reek of long-unwashed bodies, the pungent tang of rotting food, the odor of barnyard creatures, or the scents inevitably produced by the combination of people, food, and water, civilization basically stank. Strong perfumes were developed largely to allow the wealthy to mask the awful stench of daily existence.
In the modern world, we don’t have that problem. Thanks to toilets, showers, deodorant soaps, refrigerators — and especially Febreze — we live in a largely odor-free world. Why, then, do some people at the office wear fragrances so powerful you’d think they lived in Elizabethan times and had to walk through streets littered with offal and the debris thrown out by the tanner? Those are the people who are given wide berth and seem to walk the halls in a mobile no-contact zone.
I admit that I don’t exactly have a finely honed sense of smell. I’m sure I don’t fully savor the delicate fragrance of well-cooked food or the bouquet in a glass of fine red wine. So when I encounter scents so powerful that even my suboptimal nostrils feel scalded and the gag reflex starts to kick in, it’s fair to say that an unfortunate line has been crossed.
Because I don’t have the scent detection abilities of a basset hound, I hesitate to comment on the odors that people have selected as their signature fragrances — yet I feel I must. One individual seems to bathe in a vat of some kind of roadkill stew that is just beginning to turn. Another apparently rolls in kitchen spices as part of the morning routine. And, by the way, even the most nuanced floral scents smell like a cheap Glade knock-off when liberally applied from head to toe.
So please, if you must wear a fragrance, go easy when your index finger is on the nozzle of the perfume vial or the Old Spice bottle. Your co-workers, and their overwhelmed noses, will appreciate it.