Saturday, July 16, 2016


Smell – The Silent Sense

I’ve had a slight fascination with smell for some time now. More like a fixation. Maybe paranoia. It all started with a mildly traumatic mold episode in an old basement apartment. I went overseas for the summer, and came home to my apartment, a dripping mold-cave where every surface below the frost line was covered in whitish-green, primitive metabolism.

After a monumental cleaning effort, the apartment and my respiratory health fared well. I continued to live in that basement a few more years, on high alert for the first sign of a return of my mildly intoxicating, cohabitating saprophyte. I have since moved on, but my nose has never been the same.

I can smell mold spores floating outside, in certain kinds of weather. I don’t ask people anymore if they can smell it too; only rarely they can. Smell is like this – you may not notice it until someone draws-in your attention. And thereafter, even if you don’t continue to smell it, but you think it’s there, this is enough to make you physically sick (despite the fact that smells do not make us sick; it is their associations that make us sick). I have since learned to withhold my mold-detection abilities unless requested.

It turns out that most people who think they have a sensitive nose in fact do not: They only think they do. This doesn’t sound like what it means. People who think they have a strong sense of smell are simply more sensitive to the effect it creates within them. They do not smell better; they think about smelling more than others. Through some psychological alchemy, this translates into a mundane superpower, albeit one that anyone can give to themselves.

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