I have a habit. It's not necessarily a bad one. I admit that I have done it in mixed company. Many who know me are used to it and pay no attention to me. However, I do still run across the occasional person that calls me on it.
"Did you just smell that piece of paper?!"
Yes, whenever I have my hands on a freshly printed piece of paper, book, or magazine -- I smell it. I'm conditioned to it. I blame the school system. I know I'm not alone -- there are complete Web discussions dedicated to people like myself who have fond memories of smelling their worksheets and test papers in grade school as soon as their teachers handed them out. What's this? A science test? I'd slap that thing up to my face and inhale. Ahhhhhh. The mimeograph machine. The thick smell of ink and chemicals. Purple ink, too. Ahhhhhh.
The best days were the ones when the teacher passed out the test and made you put them face down on your desk before you could begin. You couldn't wait to touch them. Then she would say, "You may turn over your test now and begin." And everyone, like a highly poised synchronized swimming team, picked up their paper and smelled it in unison. Memories.
When I think of that mimeograph smell I think of Timed Multiplication Tables tests where you had to do 100 in one minute and if you got all of them right, the teacher would hang your paper from a string on the wall with a clothes pin for all to see! It took me four or five times to get mine on a clothes pin. Six times nine always stumped me. So did seven times nine. The nines were not good to me. Maybe the ink had killed too many brain cells.
Smells bring back lots of memories for me.
To this day I can be in a crowded room, smell Jean Nate body splash, and want to run and hide. Not because I dislike its lemony, splashy, just walked in from a rain shower of lemonade smell -- but because its scent transports me back to when I was eight or nine, maybe, and I sneaked into my sister's room and "borrowed" her Jean Nate after she had forbid me from going near anything that remotely belonged to her. But, gosh darn it, I'd seen the commercials -- "Jean Nate After Bath Splash is for people who want to take charge of their lives!" it said. I wanted to take charge of my life and that yellow bottle filled with yellow potion sitting right there next to her John Denver albums was calling out to me like a siren. I had to have some. Just a dab ... or two ... OK, so I practically bathed in it, but, boy, did I smell good.
Evidently, my sister smelled me, too -- all the way across the house. Had it not been for my ability to run faster than she could and hide in the laundry room, I would probably have not made it to my tenth birthday. But I would have smelled nice.
The smells of Dial soap reminds me of my Granddaddy and Granny's house. There is probably not a better smell on earth than Jergens Cherry Almond from a real glass bottle. Unless its original Oil of Olay from a glass bottle. I'd have trouble choosing between the two.
Desitin is another favorite, although I can't pin a particular memory on that smell. I don't think diaper rash would be a rather fond one. I love the smell of a freshly plowed field, coffee grounds, and libraries and book stores, too. My list goes on and on ...
Thankfully, my days of youth spent smelling mimeograph ink didn't do too much damage. I now know that six times nine is 54 and seven times nine is 63. Wait ... yes, that's right. I checked the calculator.
And, no, I didn't smell it..
Contact columnist Mandy Flynn at firstname.lastname@example.org.