Stop making scents -- or at least these

"It's smelly in this bathroom!" I said to no one in particular. Normally, this would be a perfectly normal statement to make while inside an office bathroom.

The words "smelly" and "bathroom" go together like "peanut butter" and "jelly" or "burger" and "fries."

What was strange was what I smelled. Spending a significant part of my life close to the Pacific Ocean and all of that dampness, the change to the dry desert -- and crazy air system at the Nevada Appeal -- must have finally ruined my sense of smell.

I was in a bathroom, and the odor wasn't the breath-stopping smell of human waste, but something sweet and overpowering.

It was bubble gum. And it was pretty darned breath stopping. Yuck!

Perplexed, I went back to my desk and looked up at the accursed air system. It pushes out hot air when it's warm, and cold air when it's chilly. I thought I had prematurely reached menopause before I realized the noisy duct directly above me wasn't just making me deaf. I was becoming temperature-challenged, too.

No matter what the temperature, that thing is running. And it's very loud.

"Strawberry shortcake," one of the reporters guessed.

"What?" I replied, ears ringing and barely able to catch my breath.

"Strawberry shortcake," she said.

"No thanks, I've sworn off desserts. How could you think of food after that awful smell in the bathroom?" I thought to myself.

"Oh, that's what you think it smells like," I might have actually said.

"It smells like Sweetarts," another theorized.

"Bubble gum. Definitely bubble gum," a third noted.

It smelled the same way in the men's rooms. I didn't go in; I just asked.

I also hear they keep a lot of good reading materials in the men's rooms at the Appeal. But why would you want read in a place with that smell? The only appropriate reading materials would be comic books or baseball cards in a room that stinks of bubble gum.

I continued complaining about the smell. Over and over.

"I'll bring in some dog poop for you tomorrow, sweetie pie! It's natural -- from my yard -- naturally!" I thought I heard someone finally reply.

Was the bubble gummy-smell finally melting my brain? I started having some sort of preternatural office experience. I thought that a huge piece of Double Bubble was sitting in the corner, telling me it was OK to give the computer a nice, swift whack the next time it froze up.

I had fallen asleep at my desk. It was really warm and stuffy. And it was quiet, except for the loud hum and grind and whoosh of the air system. It assumed it was 120 degrees, and that we were wearing long underwear and down parkas. Or 20 degrees below zero, and that we weren't wearing any clothes.

And I thought I could smell bubble gum coming from the bathroom.

April 21 was "National Sense of Smell Day." The event is sponsored by the Sense of Smell Institute. Really. Their goal is to "increase public awareness of the many beneficial effects of aromas on all aspects of daily life," according to their Web site,

The group organized the "Odor Eaters Rotten Sneakers" event held at museums around the nation, including the Lawrence Hall of Science in Berkeley, Calif.

The group financed a 1993 Good Housekeeping Institute study that showed lavender scents had a good effect on a people's proofreading skills, especially women's. A smaller sampling of men improved their proofreading when they smelled peppermint.

Another study published last year stated that chewing gum -- not smelling gum -- boosts memory. The flavor doesn't matter, but the act of mastication (my favorite dirty-sounding word that isn't dirty at all) improves short-term and long-term memory by up to 35 percent, according to the researchers affiliated with the University of Northumbria and the Cognitive Research Unit in England.

Maybe we should remove the bathroom smell contraptions and plant some lavender and peppermint outside the Appeal building? Perhaps we could get a corporate discount from Wrigley's?

During a recent trip to the grocery store, I found scores of scented soaps, sprays, detergents, potpourris, fabric softeners and even chlorine bleach.

Mountain spring-scented fabric softener? I want my clothes to smell like they've been washed, not like I put them on and jumped into a large body of water. And why would anyone want berry-scented deodorant? The scents were so overwhelming on one of the store aisles I had to stop counting before seriously hyperventilating and passing out. I ran toward the cookie aisle.

The smell of gum (or candy or strawberry shortcake or cookies) doesn't belong in the bathroom. It belongs in my mouth. And not as a flavor of toothpaste.

Terri Harber works on the Nevada Appeal news desk.


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