Smells are powerful emotional triggers, and we each have strong reactions, positive or negative, to certain ones. For instance, it’s not uncommon for a member to comment that they dislike the smell of insulin (or more precisely, its preservative metacresol, which is what you actually smell).
So . . . what smell or smells produce a strong visceral reaction for you, either good or bad? One of mine is isopropyl (rubbing alcohol). I love that smell. It reminds me of how doctors’ offices used to smell when I was little, and my brain has wired itself to think that it’s the scent of cleanliness.
There’s a great story told by one of the writers from the old Sid Caesar variety show of the 50s. After several years of great success, the show was seriously challenged when a competing network put Lawrence Welk on in the same time slot. Soon Lawrence Welk began to surpass Caesar in the ratings. One day the writing staff was sitting around trying to figure out what to do. One of them lamented out loud, “Why is Lawrence Welk beating Sid in the ratings?” Another writer responded, “He’s funnier than Sid.”
A really interesting read is “A Natural History of the Senses” by Diane Ackerman. I remember that the sense of smell brings back memories like no other. One of mine is sawdust. My dad was a master cabinetmaker. After he died in 2010, my husband and I went to a craft fair. We were in a tent looking at stuff, and when we exited, there was someone outside doing lathe work (another of dad’s favs) I found myself overcome with emotion and broke into tears. [quote=“Timbeak48, post:2, topic:56210”]
when I wanted to watch Hee Haw
I wasn’t allowed to watch HeeHaw. I took as many babysitting jobs as I could on Sat nights so I could watch it. and I Love Yardley’s English Lavender soap, always have.
I love the smell of schools. That combination of pencils and chalk (though these days it’s more often paper and dry erase pens). I always enjoyed school and, even today as a teacher, although I don’t work in schools all the time, when I walk in and smell those smells they remind me of when I was in grade two or three and how exciting the first day of school was after the summer vacation.
Mine are very down to earth, coffee, bread and onions. I also love the perfume of roses and like Marie I love Yardley’s Lavender soap, although I can’t use soap due to eczema. Take me to a vegetable market and I am happy, the smell of fresh vegetables are evocative of my young days as my Dad grew most of our vegetables, and it is citrus season here and the citrussy smell from small roadside stalls and markets is marvellous.
The smell of Old Spice aftershave makes me tear up because my dear departed father always wore Old Spice. I still miss him dreadfully.
What I always found interesting is that the underarm scent of every lover with whom I was particularly compatible actually smelled good to me. It got to the point where I would surreptitiously track down a potential lover’s dirty laundry pile in order to sniff something they had recently worn. If the scent wasn’t right, I’d call it a night and come up with excuses to decline future requests for dates.
This is a bit odd, but I worked at a place for 12 years. I left for 3 years and went back to a take a second job at the same facility. The minute I walked in I noticed the smell. It was so familiar but odd.
I worked at this place for another 5 years and during that time I found the source. It was the cleaning polish used on the wood in the office building. It was a spray polish and its smell was so powerful. I still recall that smell. I would know it today, even 20 years later.
… which became a standard catch-phrase among the jazzers I grew up with and still makes me laugh. Haven’t thought of it in decades. If smells can transport you back to an earlier life, so do things like this!
“Involuntary memory”–Proust’s episode of the madeleine cake having enshrined the phenomenon in literary history.
I’ve read various places that smell is the oldest sense, evolutionarily speaking, and therefore processed in the most ancient part of the brain, which is also where the deepest memories get stored. Something like that–anyway, it’s supposed to explain why smell, or taste which is essentially just a variant of smell, can be so overwhelmingly evocative.