March 13, 2009
Would you be willing to permanently lose your sense of smell?
Let me tell you a story.
A few years ago, for six months I sublet this windowless underground box in Williamsburg (Brooklyn, not Colonial) that got no natural light and had a bathtub in the kitchen and a fridge that had a working light inside but did fuck all to chill food and flooded regularly and oh wait did I mention it had no fucking windows?* The landlord was this slightly older woman with a half-shaved head who had an annoying habit of misusing words like “fascist” and “bureaucrat” the way a 16-year-old might – to describe pretty much anyone who didn’t know who, say, Glenn Branca and La Dusselfdorf and Lester Bangs were. Also, despite having no background in home wiring and no natural proclivity toward general maintenance, she did all the repairs herself. I hated her.
Anyway, one of the numerous notable results of all this talentless repair work was that the temperature controller was, apparently, mounted upside down on the stove. (You can see where I’m going with this). I had no idea, and one day I used the oven and turned it off. Or rather, I turned it to the position where the little arrow pointed at the word OFF, which means I really turned it to 500 degrees for no good reason and just left it like that. Long story short, I went out with a friend who (thank god) came to hang out with me an hour or two later, and the first thing she said when she walked in was, “Oh my god. It smells like gas in here.” (eds. note: I had a cold and didn’t smell a thing!) We called the gas company, the guy arrived and told us to leave the place for an hour to air out, we did, and he (apparently) didn’t call anyone to have the place condemned. Slacker.
Anyway, the point is, your nose is really useful not just for helping you taste your food and enjoy the scent of flowers, but also because it keeps you out of danger. That said, although that situation gave me a greater appreciation of the importance of my sense of smell, my appreciation is not so great that I wouldn’t trade it in for $3,000,000. Sure, I’d have to make sure my home had every alarm possible, but with that kind of money I could also hire people whose sole job is to constantly sniff the air for danger. That would help get the economy moving! Also, not being able to smell or properly taste my food means I’d probably lose weight. Not that that kind of shallow crap matters to me, obviously, but it’s always good to reason through every aspect of a dare response. You understand.
For the record, many weeks later, when the landlady found out that I’d called the gas man, she yelled at me for having (I’m not kidding) “bureaucrats” come into the building and although I wanted explain to her that she was a half-wit, by then I was just too indifferent to muster the energy. I moved out a few months later, and a month after that she called me to complain that I had moved out…of a sublet…in her super illegal death trap of a building. I hung up on her halfway through the conversation.
* It was $800 a month, by the way. I just thought you should know that.
P.S. It should be noted that there are people who are born without the sense of smell. But congenital anosmia is less common than randomly occurring, temporary or permanent anosmia. Also, hyposmia describes when your sense of smell dwindles (as everyone’s does with age), and hyperosmia is an increase in the ability to smell, which happens with people with migraines and stuff.