Sense Malfunction

This doesn’t have anything to do with sense, as in common sense–in case you’re wondering if I’ve taken leave of it altogether. No, this pertains to the original 5 senses as defined by Aristotle: sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste. That 4th one is troublesome. I really started to clue into this when my Advanced Composition professor asked us to write a paper about a smell that brought back a memory.

At first, this didn’t sound like too formidable an assignment. But the more I pondered, the more I couldn’t recall any smells that I would directly associate with a memory. I desperately thumbed through my childhood memories, even of my great grandmother’s bean soup (which I could vividly recall the taste of). Finally, I raised my hand and explained my predicament to my professor, who gave me a variation on the original assignment.

A lot of people would probably consider a poor sense of smell a boon–relief from the bad smells in life. I wish that were true. While babysitting one day, I forgot to turn off the oven until the parents returned from their outing. Upon entering the kitchen, the mom immediately said, “What’s that burning smell?” and discovered that the oven was still on. My nose missed that cue entirely.

Then I got married. To someone with an equally poor sense of smell. We seem to be doomed to never know when milk has gone bad. I can’t tell you how many times I have smelled the milk carefully, poured it on my cereal, and eaten a spoonful, only to discover that the milk was totally rancid. The only thing worse than being unable to smell the bad milk yourself, is getting a shaky, second opinion from someone who also lacks a good sense of smell. So there we are in the kitchen–standing over a jug of dubious milk.

“Well, what do you think? Is it still okay?”

“I don’t know. It smells okay.”

[both peer into container] “I don’t see any lumps.”

“Let’s taste test it.”

“You first.”

I usually end up being the fall guy (girl?). That’s a long way of saying, today I drank bad milk. After I had smelled it. Even though it was an unopened jug.

This doesn’t mean I can’t smell anything. I can smell if the cat litter needs to be changed (probably 3 days too late though). I can smell a poopy diaper (probably 3 hours too late). And a rose (if I stick my nose right up to it). That’s probably why I get a little paranoid about cleaning my apartment–I can’t tell if it stinks!



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