You may have referred to the “smell test” before. I know I have. If something seems fishy or sketchy, I’m likely to remark that it just doesn’t pass the “smell test.” I presume that the phrase, in its original usage, referred to assessing whether food was fresh or not. If you detected a smell from the meat at the open-air market in your village, for example, it failed the freshness “smell test” and was best left unpurchased.
Little did I know, when I casually used that phrase in the past, that one day I would live through a global pandemic where a “smell test” would be relevant — and the test would be applied to me, besides.
How do you know if you’ve contracted coronavirus? The CDC website lists a bunch of potential symptoms, like a cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, and “muscle pain.” Some of these are pretty ambiguous. How do you know if that random cough is sufficiently “dry” to be a potential sign of COVID-19, or whether it is just the kind of cough that strikes every spring because your sinuses are reacting to your seasonal allergies? Is that coronavirus “muscle pain,” or just the creaking bones and joints of somebody in their 60s? And don’t even bring up weird new symptoms like “COVID toes,” because I don’t want to examine my feet under any circumstances, anyway.
But there’s one symptom on the CDC website — “new loss of taste or smell” — that seems like a pretty easy test to self-administer. So every morning as I take my walk I unfailingly take deep whiffs of the air and try to detect the odors on the breeze. I enjoy the scents of the flowers, but I also feel a sense of reassurance. If I can appreciate that lovely lilac fragrance, I figure I’m probably okay.